Angela's Ashes is a memoir by Frank McCourt. Set in Ireland and America in the 1930's and 1940's, the memoir takes us through Frank's impoverished childhood. At the start of the memoir, Frank is living in Brooklyn with his parents, Angela and Malachy. Malachy is an unemployed drunk and Angela is struggling to provide for the family. Frank is left to care for his young ailing siblings. Angela becomes weary at Malachy's continued drunkenness and Frank is left to console his mother as they struggle with having no food to eat and no money. The family moves to Ireland in hopes of a more prosperous future. However, once in Ireland, Malachy continues to drink heavily, crushing Franks hopes of a bright future. Frank finds solace in the tales his father tell about a Irish hero who saves his country, which leads to Frank's love for storytelling. He also finds joy in his new sibling who he believes was brought to him by an angel. Despite his impoverished surrounding, Frank is optimistic. Yet, his mother is fighting depression due to Malachy's drunkenness, unemployment and lack of responsibility towards his family.
Frank also fights discrimination at school where he is treated differently because of his low social status. Frank takes on two jobs to help his family. Frank also deals with gripping issues such as unemployment, hunger, poverty, alcoholism, illnesses and death. The greatest opposition to Frank is the people around him who treat him as if he is less than. Later, Frank falls for a woman, who dies of consumption, leaving Frank devastated. Frank saves enough money to get back to America. Although he is sad to leave behind Ireland and his family, Frank is optimistic about his future.
This is a fine book told in a sharp, witty, narrative that exudes the admiration that Frank has for his family. We see how a father who never wants to accept the role, avoids his obligations at all turns. A mother, who struggles to care for her children, mothers what seems to be out of obligation even resorting to incest to keep her family from being homeless and starving. Angela's heart and happiness was left in America and it is easy to see why Frank felt he could have a better life if he returned there. This is a gripping story told from the view of a starving, determined child...battling pestilence, neglect and mired in poverty. As a reader, I felt Frank's desire to overcome...to be triumphant. And I never once doubted he would do just that, but I sure wanted him to hurry up and get there. Angela's Ashes is a moving story that at times is humorous but at all times feels honest and true.
***** 5 STAR
Favorite Quotes/Excerpts from "Angela's Ashes"
"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood... nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years."
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