One of the most important gifts of life is love. Many of us spend our lives falling in and out of love with the world. We learn about ourselves, for better or for worse. After all that soul searching, we look for somebody to love, hoping that one day we will we eventually find that someone. Enter protagonist, Marie Commeford, of Alice McDermott’s latest novel, “Someone”. Marie takes readers on a non-linear journey through life, love and loss.
McDermott, who was previously awarded the National Book Prize for her novel “Charming Billy,” has gone on to win various awards in addition to being thrice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. As a result, the continued maturity, poise and brilliance that McDermott has created with “Someone” may prove to be her most pivotal work yet.
Readers are introduced to Marie at a young age. We soon find that she is suffering from severe myopia, an eye disorder that eventually destroys her ability to see clearly. However, the condition never once denies her the ability to see the wonder and beauty around her:
“Slipping out of that first darkness, into the dusty, city light of these rooms, I met the blurred faces of the parents I’d been given — given through no merit of my own — faces that even to my defective eyes, ill-formed, you might say, in the hours of that first darkness, were astonished by love.”
Marie’s family gathers much of the readers’ emotion within the novel, particularly her brother Gabe, who, while religious, decides to leave the priesthood. While the reasons are unknown, McDermott allows readers to come to their own conclusions. Nevertheless, even in Gabe’s ambiguity, readers grow to admire and care for him as a man who is both genuine and noble.
Narrating the book as a senior, Marie bridges one of her first memories — waiting for her father on the steps of their Brooklyn home to everything in between — to love, marriage, motherhood, faith and death. Even considering McDermott does not heed to chronological order, there remains a great balance to the work. The descriptions are vivid and mesmerizing, transporting readers to each given scene with precision. The pages move like a perfected pirouette, whirling with ease and grace.
The novel showcases that there is more than one person with the ability to love us; they are those who can take us in without judgment, even knowing our darkest secrets and deepest flaws. In the end, Marie’s life becomes a culmination of events recaptured not through her diminishing sight, but through a clear lens of wisdom.