We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas- a review



We are Not Ourselves

by Matthew Thomas

published by Simon & Schuster

August 2014

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.


My Review

I was very excited to receive an ARC of this novel through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers group, so I was actually surprised to find myself putting it aside- twice- to read other books.  The writing was wonderful, but I just couldn’t keep reading about Eileen Tumulty.  She reminded me of a great aunt I had- not my favorite person.  When I finally decided to push through, about a third of the way through the book, Bam! I was hooked and finished it in two days.  The summary of the novel is below, and I am going to let you go with that, because I had mixed feelings about the start of the book.  Instead, let me tell you about the book as a whole.  It was a wonderful, thought provoking story that will stay with me a long time.  Without giving away too much, it shows you how amazing life can be.  Hopefully, I will have many years to enjoy this author’s works.


Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away. 


A few great quotes-

“There were places, she now saw, that contained more happiness than ordinary places did. Unless you knew that such places existed, you might be content to stay where you were.”


“The fact that they were there, that everything they owned wasn’t enough somehow, disturbed her, suggesting a bottomlessness to certain kinds of unhappiness.”


“So much of life was the peeling away of illusions.”

3 thoughts on “We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas- a review

  1. This one has been hanging around my TBR but I’m not sure if I’ll get to it. Are you on Twitter? I’ve posted a link to this post and I’d like to tag you in the tweet.

  2. Pingback: Still Alice by Lisa Genova | Turn the Page Reviews

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