[495]: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

DSC_1006 GOODREADS SUMMARY | Simon & Schuster | Hardcover, 620 pages | August 19th, 2014 | Adult Fiction | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Have you ever witnessed a brilliant mind go to waste?
A slow leaking sludge that muddles what once looked like a beautiful landscape?
Have you ever seen fireworks in the deluge of rain?
Colourful sparks lost in their watery grave.

– Joyousreads

I’ve read books about cancer. I’ve read books about depression. I’ve read people suffer depression brought on by cancer. I’ve read books about deaths and suicide. Each one remarkably  heartbreaking than the last. But there is nothing sadder than witnessing a person slowly diminish into someone unrecognizable. Someone who was once full of life and wit and intelligence until all that’s left of him is a glazed look punctuated by unknowing blinks. Alive, but barely; conscious, but hardly responsive. Edward Leary was once a brilliant scientist. A man who could’ve taught at Columbia or Brown, but have decided – against his wife’s wishes, no less – that he would rather teach at a Bronx Community College. Before his life-long career of teaching, he did extensive research in – ironically enough – Neurology.

Majority of this book was about his life as seen through the eyes of his wife, Eileen and his son, Connell.  The practical, insouciant husband and the doting, devoted father. Until he was no longer.

Halfway through the book, I started to question why I was slogging through chapters upon chapters of a woman’s boring life. I’ve even entertained stopping altogether. There is nothing worse than reading long narratives about someone’s nuanced life; until it slowly dawned on me why Thomas felt the need to divulge gratuitously. Because it was the only way the readers would see how a person’s mind disintegrate into a wasteland. What started out as a man who seemed to have lost his zest for life; someone depressed, or going through a mid-life crisis, was actually a preamble to something more permanent and incurable.

It is a languid account of their lives; a biographical narration spanning years of banalities until the encroachment of a disease steers the novel on to darker routes.

Aptly enough, this book was told in a morosely calm manner. Even more so as the author show Edward’s slow submission to the disease.  It also shows Eileen’s hardships as she tries to anticipate all of Edward’s needs while financially trying to provide for the family’s livelihood. The readers would not be able to resist looking at Connell with judgmental eyes as he failed to support  his struggling mother. Conversely, we see Eileen take up a brief affair with a man she hired as Ed’s caregiver, but you’ll be hard pressed to look at her with the same judgement as you would, Connell. Because her life had become endless days of lonely wariness. There will be a large part of you that couldn’t help but sympathize. And you will end up forgiving her, no matter what. Because for all the sacrifices she’d done, she still deserved happiness, even temporary.

This is the type of novel that doesn’t show its true goodness straightaway. You have to be patient. Heck, this book took 10 years to write. It is only fair to give it a chance. Matthew Thomas showed incredible restraints in not rushing through years of stilted narrative. And it shows. We Are Not Ourselves is a labor of love; one that paints a heartbreaking picture of what it’s like to slowly lose the very foundation of who you are.

  • That is my problem with contemporary books they all just seem to sound depressing and sound like they are going to be just exactly as you said, slogging thru pages and pages and I just don’t have the patience or desire for that. I don’t want to read about sadness and despair and the gradual breakdown of someone. It just gets too upsetting for me personally. Sigh. But glad you found a gem buried beneath all that.

  • Gorgeous review Joy. <3 I don't think this book would be for me, but it do sound interesting and heartbreaking, which I do like 🙂 But yeah, I'm so happy you enjoyed it so much sweetie. <3 Your picture is, as always, gorgeous 🙂

  • This definitely does sound like a book where you need some of the patience to keep reading it. It seems like a calm, slow and steady book. I think this would sadden me a lot. I have an Aunty who gradually deteriorated until now she can’t remember us or even her own children. It is a difficult illness to deal with and not many books have been written about it before, so I admire this one for doing so.

  • 10 years is a long long time

  • Wow! This sounds so incredible!! So glad to see you enjoy it. Fantastic review!!

    Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace

  • This one sounds really sad! i couldn’t imagine what it’s like to see someone go through that! great review!

  • Normally I love gut-wrenching books, one that crush my soul because I just love to torture myself but this story might hit a little too close to home. But I still think this is a beautiful book and more than likely, a book worth reading! 😉

  • This sounds so emotional and yet a worthwhile read! Thanks for letting me know about it.

  • This sounds like a heart breaking but beautiful read! Wonderful review! I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

  • I’d probably have to work myself up to reading this one. I love the cover, though. So striking! It reminds me of David Finch’s cinematography.

  • Woah, ten years to write? Damn! I haven’t heard of this one but it seems like a worthwhile read; one that is truly poignant. Glad you enjoyed it, Joy–thanks for putting this on my radar! 🙂

  • 10 years to write? Woah. This particular book would hit too close to home, so I’m not sure if I would read it, but I’m glad that you enjoyed it regardless of the slow pace. Great review, Joy!

  • This sounds brilliant Joy. I don’t mind a slow burning storyline and something so poignant really should be savored. It must have been fascinating to read what seemed like trivial daily life, and see his mind slowly start to deteriorate. Incredibly sad, but it would make for a brilliant read. Thanks so much for sharing Joy, loved the review. Going to seek out a copy this weekend <3

  • I confess that I didn’t know about this book but I tend to stay a bit away of this kind of books because I cry quite easily. But this one sounds good too with a different way of seeing things too. thanks for the review.