By Sierra Maciorowski
People are carried away from Marie’s Brooklyn neighborhood from time to time, for different reasons. Some die. Some are sent to mental institutions. Some get married.
But whatever the reason, those who leave are always remembered, and though Marie outgrows the neighborhood children who play ball on the street with a blind umpire, she encounters them still.
Her childhood recollections begin the novel with a jolt, as an older girl eventually dies by falling down the stairs, and as Marie’s life continues on, she stops, once in a while, to reflect on this life, and many others, which are lost over the course of her own lifetime.
As she begins to recognize, though the churches are meant to hold life’s great mysteries and experiences, it is in the hospitals that the most important things seem to happen. Unfortunately.
With a brother destined to become a member of the clergy, a mother determined to teach her the proper way of living, and a father willing to indulge until his own indulgences give out, Marie’s life is sometimes boring–but, to the readers, it can never be.
Alice McDermott’s Someone might sound abstract, or mysterious–and, indeed, it is both of those. However, it is only a story, a simple story that never deviates from its ordinary tale. Marie’s background is a common writing trope: the Catholic, Irish-American family, living in Brooklyn.
Yet Marie is still memorable. While so many stories have been told about the same characters, the same ideas, they have never been told quite like this before.
McDermott’s prose is truly incredible: the tiniest detail may become the most invaluable, the most sidelined character may become the most poignant, and the simplest lines can become the most precious.
Amidst a world of fiction which has recently turned towards hyper-expansion of events, massive dystopias, and worldwide struggles, Someone is a welcome return to old-style literature, in a new-style manner. Of course, new fiction’s huge-ness has its place, and a fascinating one.
But something about McDermott’s style is deeply reminiscent of authors like James Joyce, with an endless attention to the shape of the laundry on the line and the color of the blind umpire’s eyes.
And in a world that becomes more and more confusing with each passing second, a moment to stop and remember the not-so distant past of our literary history is altogether magnificent.
Someone is a little more than 200 page thriller of details: though nothing is truly remarkable, every petite happenstance is a moment to be remembered, and McDermott’s prose brings back an era quite forgotten: when books could be quiet.
And therein lies Someone’s true potential: the ability to call out in a whisper the inequalities and inconsistencies in our everyday world.