This semester I picked up Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. I'll be honest, it wasn't something I would normally grab. Memoir? Great Depression? Poverty? Miserable Catholic Irish Childhood? Not something that I’d normally want to pick up and read with a cup of hot chocolate on the couch with my dogs draped over my feet. But when our reading list came out and I saw the brief description of Frank's life, I was drawn in. I wanted to know more about his (deep breath) miserable catholic Irish childhood and how he managed to grow up to write about it, to tell his story. So I picked up his memoir, and let me tell you, it was a story that will stay with me forever.
You’re probably wondering at this point what this book’s about. It's the story of Frank McCourt, the son of irish immigrants born in New York City in 1930. With the combination of the Great Depression as well as his alcoholic father's inability to hold a job, the McCourts move back to Limerick Ireland when Frank was 4 years old with his siblings. Unfortunately for the McCourts, their problems follow them to Ireland, where they live in poverty in the slums unable to find stable work due to Frank's father's alcoholism. The story follows young Frank as he grows up among the very poorest of Limerick along with his schooling and the valuable life lessons he learns along the way.
What makes Angela’s Ashes such a memorable read is the way Frank tells his story. His voice is entirely unique in his long narrative descriptions, the grimy imagery of his early life, the detail in which he recalls his earliest and most important memories. The reader feels his emotions and experiences in a very personal way that makes you feel like you've been visited by a ghost. He manages to pull the reader into his life story, make them cry with him, feel the cold nights without coal with him, desperate with him, shameful with him all along his journey. But through all of his misery he comes away with hope for a better life through his education for “you might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.”
Frank McCourt's Angela’s Ashes is a memoir that makes someone who avoids memoirs like the plague love memoirs. He so beautifully shares his story that the secondhand sorrow inflicted on the audience is worth it because we get to see the hope that comes from darkest of places. I would highly recommend Angela’s Ashes to anyone who wants of venture outside of their normal book genres. You won't be disappointed by this beautiful storytelling.
Cameron Bennett is a junior at Novi High School. She enjoys reading, kayaking, spinning on the color guard, and traveling. She plans on pursing a degree in microbiology or biochemistry.