Quotes & Notes: Someone by Alice McDermott



I saw my mother in a chair by the window when I opened my eyes again. My mother wore her hat and her pale broadcloth summer suit, and she held her purse on her lap. The slatted sunlight had washed her of all color. I thought for a moment that we might have both died during the long days and nights of my ordeal, not because of the pale light in the blank room, but because of the sweet assurance I felt, waking and seeing my mother there, that I was loved, cherished beyond all reason. The peace of this, the stillness of the room, the temporary suspension of pain seemed evidence enough that I had come to the end of time. I felt a strange elation. And then I closed my eyes and slept again. (182)


Oh, Someone, what a delightful surprise you were. I didn’t know much about Someone before I read it. The jacket copy calls it a “resonant story of an unremarkable woman’s unforgettable life” and that’s very accurate, but please stop reading there. There’s just so much to discover about Marie, an average girl whose life is punctured by grief and joy in the way that all our lives are.

And this is Marie’s life, from the moment we first meet her as a young girl to the end of her life in less than 250 pages, but it is remarkable what this book accomplishes in that many pages. Time weaves in and out of Marie’s childhood, her young adulthood, middle age, old age and it feels effortless. Marie herself feels so fully realized, so true.

The language is sparse and beautiful, not a word out of place. There is some repetition throughout that I think I would need to read the book again to understand the purpose of. This was my book club read and we all felt it was very intentional, but we weren’t quite sure what the purpose was. Perhaps in everyone’s life you repeat things.

This book jacket is beautiful in person, the cover images you pull from online really don’t do it justice. The buildings are drawn in a beautiful gold ink and the motif is repeated throughout in each chapter and section divider. It’s purposeful and quiet, just like the inside of the book.

I’m so glad my book club made me read this. I’m not sure I ever would have picked it up otherwise. It’s just so unassuming, but truly it is lovely.


8 thoughts on “Quotes & Notes: Someone by Alice McDermott

  1. I’m honestly not sure if this book is for me or not. But your genuine affection for it shines through so deeply in this post, that I think I would be a fool not to give it a try. 🙂

  2. Jamaica Kincaid did a lot of repetition with her book Mr Potter, and it was a poetic technique which may grate on a reader’s nerves but to me it was just beautiful.

  3. I’ve never read one of her novels, but I have always thought “hmmm, maybe” with each of the others whereas this one is really tugging at me; I think I will pick up a copy. Thanks for the nudge.

  4. I think I would love this. Question is if I should make my book club read it. I am starting my list to recommend – such a stress (but a fun stress, in a way.)

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