We Are Not Ourselves – book review

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to focus long enough to read an entire book.

It’s incredibly hard to concentrate with so much going on in the world and although escaping into a book seems like an easy thing to do, in reality you need to choose exactly the right book in order to be transported into that parallel universe that a good book can provide.

I’ve just finished reading “We Are Not Ourselves” by Matthew Thomas. I put off reading the last chapter because I didn’t want it to end, but I was also a little bit nervous in case it just trailed off. Some novels do that, it’s as though they don’t quite know how to finish. I don’t like endings to be too tidy and twee, but I do like books that give you some sense of things being put right with the world.

It’s a lengthy book (600+ pages) about a marriage between two very different people. Eileen comes from Irish immigrant stock; Ed is a college professor with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. But it’s not just about navigating his illness, it’s about all the ways that relationships evolve over time. It’s about love, death, and birth, and finding compassion for yourself and others. The blurb on the back says that it took the author ten years to write and it’s easy to see the time and effort that went into crafting this novel.

I have a soft spot for books of this kind. You’ll find them frequently in my lists of favourite books and I think this is because I like to know what happens to people as they grow and change. I like to see how people mellow as they age, and how they start to think about things differently. I’m also very partial to books that remind you about what really matters.

At the end of the book, the son reads a letter from his father which says…

When the world is full of giants who dwarf you, when it feels like a struggle just to keep your head up, I want you to remember that there is more to live for than mere achievement. It is worth something to be a good man. It cannot be worth nothing to do the right thing.

Matthew Thomas

Being a good person has value. Good reminder.

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