A breakaway best seller since its first printing, All Souls takes us deep into Michael Patrick MacDonald's Southie, the proudly insular neighborhood with the highest concentration of white poverty in America. Rocked by Whitey Bulger's crime schemes and busing riots, MacDonald's Southie is populated by sharply hewn characters like his Ma, a mini-skirted, accordion-playing single mother who endures the deaths of four of her eleven children. Nearly suffocated by his grief and his community's code of silence, MacDonald tells his family story here with gritty but moving honesty.
©2007 Michael MacDonald (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
Yes. I downloaded All Souls on 6/17 and and finished all 8 hours and 24 minutes of it by this 6/21. And this is with a full time job that includes travel, a 2 year old at home and assorted other activities. I was hooked from the moment I started. I am about as far removed from Southie as can be. I was born in India to middle class parents with the means to educate me, came to the US when I was 28 and being in IT, have managed to carve out a comfortable suburban existence for the 15 years I have been in the US. But I have always been in part fascinated and in part befuddled by the poverty in America. In India, and in other 3rd world countries, the poor are everywhere and in your face. In the US they remain hidden in places like Southie and even there too there is a narrative that seems to cast this sheen of quasi prosperity on them. I think America is in denial about its poor and books like these are a window into their lives. And with one political party capable of only mean spiritedness towards the poor and the other making only half hearted attempts towards any form of poverty alleviation, people like Michael Macdonald play an indispensable role today in educating us of our problems as well as suggesting concrete steps towards helping the poor.I think the best way to describe the book was that by the end, I felt a sense of kinship and connection with all the characters in the book, particularly the mother. And this, when I have very little in common with them. That is a sign of a good book, one that appeals to your emotions and exposes you to a world beyond your own and motivates you to take action.Highly recommended.
Addicted to Audible!
I generally don't like memoirs and don't usually like when authors read their own work. In this case I enjoyed both. To say I "enjoyed" the book is not exactly correct, it was an awesome book, but really sad, just like an Irish ballad. The author brought the world of his childhood to life and I felt like I was there with his family, sitting in their apartment and looking out their window. The sorrows and the joys, the hopefulness and the tragedies, he describes them all in an unflinchingly honest way.MacDonald is a testiment to the human spirit, he turned his life around and used his pain to help others. Listen to this one!!
It's at the top of the list of the ones I have listened to recently.
Of course it was Michael as it is his story about loving Southie in spite of the forced busing, violence, and loss of siblings.
Southie, the Greatest Neighborhood.
I grew up in the Boston suburbs and lived in Boston in the same time period and never understood until now what it was like in South Boston. I was one of those outsiders who, the one time I ventured in to see the St Patrick's Day Parade, was hit by a beer bottle.
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
Michael MacDonald re-lived his life story as he read his memoir—he was reluctant to take the assignment, and I can see why; he is present in every moment, no matter how poignant or raw. He IS Southie.
This is an essential reading of the Irish-American experience, a Boston touchstone to be sure.
A hard look at life in the Boston projects. Illustrates how the poor struggle to survive with drugs and death all around. Also shows the negative side of the social engineering of busing, welfare, and forced integration.
Helen was one tough mother trying to raise her 10 kids under almost impossible conditions. Love the authors authentic Boston accent.
I listen to books all the time, When I am driving, cleaning, cooking or doing anything quiet. I am AUDOBSESSED!
I loved this story! A time in America where racial strife and prejudice were a daily problem. I personally remember watching the race riots from my porch as a little girl. The family in this book is tragic, and most of the people in it are, but there are many sweet endearing moments. I know it will bring back memories for everyone. If you love Irish people and their stories you will love this!
Exceeded all expectations! By the end of the book I learned about a part of Boston I truthfully knew nothing about. The names and experiences will stay with me for a long, long time.
The author Michael brought me to where he grew up and what was normal for "his people ". An eye opener! Thank you for an excellent but sad story.
Greedy, voracious reader since age five. After a number of eye injuries & surgeries, reading is hard. So now, I listen.
'All Souls' is quintessential Americana. A story about that shining city on a hill; or, actually, the people living at the bottom of the hill after all the s#it has rolled down. It's about close-knit, loyal communities with scrappy kids, neighbors who look out for each other, and a culture that has adapted for survival. They must survive grinding poverty, corruption and malfeasance in the police department, indifference or callous manipulation from politicians, collusion between local politics and media in portrayals of these people, and the final, ruinous piece of the puzzle: the drug empire of Whitey Bulger. (Not long ago, the FBI arrested Whitey here in SoCal, where he'd been hiding for 25 years, and I didn't get why it was such a big deal. Now, I get it.) He was the wizard behind the curtain in the South Boston drug trade, and the sickening litany of deaths in this book can mostly be traced to drugs.
The author's sad, resigned voice as he tells how kids died, over and over, his friends, his brothers, is just heartbreaking. The code of silence, born of loyalty and self-protection, means no one is ever punished for these murders.
This memoir is not all sad. The author loves Southie, and its good people, and, in picking the memories of his family and friends, gives a real you-are-there feeling to this memoir.
I feel bad for Michael and his family, and anyone else that lived in Southie, one of the higher crime areas in the Boston in the 1960s. Especially, because seeing people trapped in a terrible environment, and unable to get out of, to break the vicious cycle. And each of the people in the story is actively contributing to the violent, full of drugs, toxic neighborhood, and still nothing can be done. Like fate had been sealed for such places (it is very sad how true that is). The simplest example is Michael's mother, bringing one chile after the other (11 in all), without any money, without any father, clothed like a prostitute (or maybe she was, it's not specified in these words, but she did come back pregnant on a regular basis). At some point you can't even count how many of his brothers and sisters are doomed. It's like watching a really bad mafia movie, when you feel it's too much to make sense, but that was the life in Southie.
Kids weren't safe in this neighborhood, they couldn't go outside without getting in trouble:
Davey always told me how he used his lunch box as a weapon to and from school, ready to smash anyone in the head who’d attack him or his younger brothers and sisters. Johnnie, the second oldest, tells me he’d be sent down to the Beehive corner store for milk and bread, only to be robbed repeatedly of the money Ma had given him for groceries. When Frankie was five, a gang of teenagers circled him and turned him upside down to shake all the coins bulging from his pockets for penny candy. Mary and Joe, the twins, used to pass one teenage girl in the courtyard who made them pull down their pants in order to get by. Drug dealings and shootings were becoming more common on hot summer evenings, so Ma started to call the kids into the house early in the afternoon
Michael's was his mother’s ninth child. She was counting a baby that died, and (strangely) celebrated his birthday every year and talked about him endlessly. The mother was beaten by her husband, an alcoholic, (that left shortly after), fractured her skull on two occasions, and broke her ribs on another. But of course, Ma will remind you of that one time she knocked out his teeth with one good kick. The father did not even show up for his own baby son’s funeral. That is pretty horrifying on its own.
She was on her own, mothering all these kids (but to say the truth, without much success with all the deaths and drugs, and comas and dysfunctional):
It was while living in Columbia Point that Ma realized she and her kids were surviving without any help from her husband anyway, money or anything else. She was alone when she had to shove three of her kids into a bush to hide from a shoot-out between two speeding cars. She was alone when she had to confront a drunk mother about her teenage son trying to strangle my sister Mary to death when she was five. She was alone when her kids came home with stories of being chased down and beaten for being white in a mostly black neighborhood. And she was alone when she ran through the project banging on neighbors’ doors, frantically trying to breathe life back into the mouth of her baby, already dead in her arms
The general feeling in the neighborhood was that school was for suckers, and that doesn't help in getting any of them education. Drugs, on the other hand, were in abundance, and his sister Kathy was deep into drugs on the ninth grade (and then fell/jumped/go pushed off a building).
It is totally not clear to me why Michael still liked his neighborhood or wanted to go back there. I would never dream on doing this. The biggest problem with this book is that reading it is mostly to fill the need for peeping into others' terrible life, craving the violence, and there's nothing left in the end, no real message (the families did acknowledge the problem of the violence and drugs, yay!). So it's just despair, despair and blindness of how much the residents of Southie are also responsible for their own situation. As I said, they couldn't do anything about it, because you can't choose options you can't see, but still. Very sad, very depressing. Crime, drugs, racism, suicides, murders. About 3 stars.
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