The American Dream is elusive. The idea of a Dream once existed in the minds of previous generations, but is no longer a shared reality for America’s Millennials. The book “We Are Not Ourselves” is a story that echoes the wishes and wants of the American Dream by Irish immigrant, Eileen Tumulty.
Growing up in Queens, living in an apartment shared with her mother and father, Eileen’s upbringing was a tumultuous experience that never found normalcy in the middle, but swung as a pendulum between devastation and pure joy. Eileen’s ups and downs were greatly based on alcohol consumption and the happenings of the routine day.
Eileen’s father, known as Big Mike, was the kind of man that all the other patrons of Doherty’s Bar were drawn to and it was his secular wisdom that made these men lay their problems at his feet. He listened like a priest in confessional and sought to right wrongs with acts of contrition. He had a firm grasp on the world, and he applied his way of thinking to any and all situations, regardless of best practice.
At one point in Eileen’s story, she arrives home drunk and underage. The solution her father had was to sit her down and make her taste every liquor in the house. He does this in a way that makes it unclear if he seeks to educate her in the way of spirits, or if this is a punishment akin to eating a cigarette when caught smoking. Regardless, it’s clear that Eileen wants none of this life for herself. Her mother was trapped at home, useless under the spell of alcohol abuse; her father was a blue-collar hero that could not be taught anything and would attack with great vigor when his worldview is threatened. This life was not Eileen’s.
Eileen Tumulty had dreams – dreams that took her away from Woodside and gave her the urban life of fancy she has envisioned. It was no surprise that upon meeting Ed Leary on a blind date, Eileen was whisked away by his academic, intellectual ways. He was unlike any of the men she had grown around. He was an idealist, and in their future, would pass on lucrative positions to take a career he felt was on the moral high ground.
Eileen once adored his eccentric ways, but soon that wore away. She wanted the means and the comfort that came from taking the money when its offered. Ed & Eileen eventually marry and have a son, Connell. Being a mother, at first, suited Eileen, but she soon became resentful toward the child. She longed for her husband to have ambition, desire, and drive to want the fine things, but this simply was not his way. Adversity and difference often caused them to fight, to tear one another down, and to question why they ever began this life. However, during these times of hardship, Eileen began to gain perspective – a perspective that the life she thought she wanted is really no different than the life she had as a child.
We often want the path that appears greener. It became clear to Eileen that the “other side” only seemed greener because she didn’t see or know the intimate details that the other side kept. Eileen “Tumulty” Leary learned that the concept of the American Dream had never existed, and it only lived in those ignorant of reality.
Author Matthew Thomas tells a familiar story in “We Are Not Ourselves” that is gripping from page one and holds on to the reader’s attention until the final sentence. This story is full of things familiar to us all, and it causes us to laugh, to cry, and even produce anger. This book is for anyone who has experienced hardships when they had hoped for better.