Synopses & Reviews
A powerfully redemptive story of escape from the Irish American ghetto.
Michael Patrick MacDonald's All Souls: A Family Story from Southie told the story of the loss of four of his siblings to the violence, poverty, and gangsterism of Boston's Irish American ghetto. The question "How did you get out?" has haunted MacDonald ever since. In response he has written this new book, a searingly honest story of reinvention that begins with young MacDonald's breakaway from the soul-crushing walls of Southie's Old Colony housing project and ends with two healing journeys to Ireland that are unlike anything in Irish American literature.
The story begins with MacDonald's first urgent forays outside Southie, into Boston and eventually to New York's East Village, where he becomes part of the club scene swirling around Johnny Rotten, Mission of Burma, the Clash, and other groups. MacDonald's one-of-a-kind 1980s social history gives us a powerful glimpse of what punk music is for him: a lifesaving form of subversion and self-education. But family tragedies draw him home again, where trauma and guilt lead to an emotional collapse. In a harrowing yet hilarious scene of self-discovery, MacDonald meets his father for the first time -- much too late. After this spectacularly failed attempt to connect, MacDonald travels to Ireland, first as an alienated young man who has learned to hate shamrocks with a passion, and then on a second trip with his extraordinary "Ma," a roots journey laced with both rebellion and profound redemption.
"In All Souls, MacDonald told the heartbreaking story of the tragic deaths of four of his siblings and his family's suffering amidst a culture of silence in Southie, Boston's tough Irish ghetto. He also introduced the enduring character of his accordian-playing, fist-fighting 'Ma,' who raised her massive family on her own. MacDonald's second memoir continues the saga with the author turning his gaze upon himself in hope of explaining how he escaped where his brethren succumbed. It quickly becomes apparent that his survival has much to do with his perpetual status as the exile. He's the 'quiet one' in his big Irish-Catholic family, the poor kid at Boston Latin High School. When his friends branch into drugs and alcohol, MacDonald remains sober, seeking refuge and a renewed sense of self in Boston's burgeoning early '80s punk rock scene, where he encounters such seminal figures as the Clash and Johnny Rotten. As the odd man out looking for a place to fit in, MacDonald journeys further and further away from Southie first to downtown Boston, then to New York's Lower East Side and the dangerous neighborhood rites that spelled doom for his family members. The book takes on a different tone as MacDonald heads to Europe after going to the Southie funeral of his father, a man he never knew. On different occasions once with Ma he finds his way to Ireland, his ancestral homeland, 'to understand more about Southie, and Irish America in general.' Even though MacDonald is far from the first Irish-American to discover the auld sod, he continues to courageously break Southie's silence in this tale of a journey that is as inspiring as it is haunting. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Though the author, now a social activist, emerged physically unscathed from his upbringing, the emotional scars he bears are undeniable." Kirkus Reviews
"MacDonald deftly captures the thrilling and surprising initial relevance of the underground culture, shrugging off the more juvenile aspects that would soon pervade its aesthetic." Booklist
This utterly unconventional narrative of reinvention begins with the young MacDonald's first forays outside the soul-crushing walls of Southie's Old Colony housing project. He provides one-of-a-kind 1980s social history and a powerful glimpse of what punk music was for him.
In All Souls, Michael Patrick MacDonald told the story of the loss of four of his siblings to the violence, poverty, and gangsterism of Irish South Boston. In Easter Rising he tells the story of how he got out. Desperate to avoid the normal” life of Southie, Michael reinvents himself in the burgeoning punk rock movement and the thrilling vortex of Johnny Rotten, Mission of Burma, and the Clash.
At nineteen MacDonald escapes further, to Paris and then London. Out of money, he contacts his Irish immigrant grandfather -- who offers a loan, but only if Michael will visit Ireland. It is this reluctant journey home” that offers MacDonald a chance at reconciliation -- with his heritage, his neighborhood, and his family -- and a way forward.
About the Author
MacDonald was born in Boston. He helped launch Boston's successful gun buy-back program, is founder of the South Boston Vigil Group, and works nationally with survivor families and young people in the anti-violence movement. He is a recipient of the 1999 Daily Points of Light Award and the New England Literary Lights Award.