Customer Reviews for

All Souls: A Family Story from Southie

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2011

    Disturbing

    This is possibly the most disturbing book I have ever read. I would read some, put it down, then go back to it again--needing time away to digest MacDonald's painful family stories. The author spares nothing in his brutally honest depiction of life growing up in the "Southie" part of Boston. I felt broken-hearted for the MacDonald children and though I felt deeply for his mother and all the losses she suffered, I also felt angry with her at times for her reckless behavior in bringing child after child into a world in which she knew she could not provide for them. While the author expresses his legitimate anger toward the police and local government, toward Whitey Bulger and his consorts, and toward the culture of extreme pride to the point of silence, he seems to place little blame on a culture of parental negligence and irresponsibility. Why such a huge disconnect? Through Michael's eyes we see with stark clarity how the onslaught of drugs and organized crime can wreak havoc on individuals, families, and entire neighborhoods, and I am amazed and heartened by his ability to avoid being consumed by the entrenched culture of violence and despair and work to try to turn things around. I only hope there are more like him who can make a difference in some young lives. I recommend this book highly.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2001

    I Was Not Surprised

    If you've never met a white family like the McDonalds, this book is a must-read. If you have, you could probably take a pass. It's the classic man-bites-dog story. A white, Irish Catholic Boston single-parent welfare family, living in the projects? Imagine! The mother of this sorry family, Helen King, could easily have been the 'welfare queen' that Reagan beat us to death with in 1980. What he didn't say, was that ending welfare would have hurt whites more than to blacks, since, in sheer numbers, more whites are on welfare. But whites aren't automatically assumed to be on welfare, so they can blend in in small towns, suburbs and rural areas. As a rule, they're not in urban housing projects like the McDonalds were. As a black man who grew up middle class and has has met a wide range of people, I know that the welfare mentality knows no color. So this book's content wasn't a shock to me. What continues to amaze me is why certain people of every color make the choices that they do in partners. Why a woman like Helen King would have nine children by three ne'er-do-well men when it should have been plain to her that she could barely afford to take care of one on her own. Why she and millions of others in this free country, continue to elect and blindly follow 'leaders' who are only interested in lining their own pockets. And instead of playing the accordion in bars for change, why she didn't spend the time her family spent living in her father's house going to school and learning a skill so she could have gotten her kids off welfare!? And if she had wanted to, she could have done it much more easily than her black counterparts. White skin is a passport in this country. The smart whites use it. Those like Helen King cling to their 'ethnicity' like a ragged security blanket, forgetting that in the United States, it doesn't matter where in Europe they came from; white's white. Take an accent-reduction class, Anglicize your name, and move on up. Don't like it? Starve. And the best part is, if you're a really brainy white person, you can get to the top without changing your accent or your name. Sweet, huh? So my sympathies lay with the children in this book who don't know any other lifestyle, who think that a place where they're allowed to run around like wild animals and have unlimited access to drugs and guns is 'the best place in the world' and that anyone darker than a paper bag is beneath them. For their sakes, I can only hope that they are eventually exposed to people of color with lawns to mow and taxes to pay, and who live in fear of a family like the McDonalds moving onto the next block, let alone next door.

    6 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2013

    I thought this book was really good. As a student in high school

    I thought this book was really good. As a student in high school the book itself really interested me and got me hooked. Being from
    around where the author is from it really hit home. Whitey Bulger was a huge criminal in the Boston area and managed to impact 
    everyone of that time. The book and the way the author MacDonald wrote it really portrays what a lot of families back then were 
    going through. He tells his story in the most humble way possible and manages to make you feel as if your right there next to him going 
    through all of it with him. The tragic lives of his brothers cut short hit you in the gut and you can't stop rooting for him to be the different one.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A MUST READ! GREAT FOR BOOK CLUBS!

    Thank you Michael Patrick MacDonald for having the strength to write this book. I can't believe you lived to tell this story. You are truly an inspiration. This is an awesome piece of American History and I urge everyone to read this powerful book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2013

    All Souls, a memoir written by Michael Patrick MacDonald functio

    All Souls, a memoir written by Michael Patrick MacDonald functions rather effectively in its role as a memoir. MacDonald brings the reader along the turbulent path of his life as a child growing up in the crime ridden, drug riddled neighborhood of South Boston. We are privy to his thoughts and feelings as he witnesses and experiences horrendous tragedies and we witness his morality blossoming through each triumph and tribulation. Self-discovery, drama, and dialogue are all present in his writing, all three of which add legitimacy and depth to his memoir.
    The volatile nature of his environment as it experienced racial tensions due to forced busing and desegregation provided plenty of opportunity for self-discovery for MacDonald. At first he found himself being dragged along with the popular opinion and participating in the riots and pickets because it was something to do and it was something that his neighbors, friends and family were a part of as well. Eventually, though, he started to question why he was there and whether or not the majority ruling of South Boston was a justified one. This reflection led MacDonald to find his own moral compass and steer clear of the alluring but destructive South Boston lifestyle of drugs and violence.
    Have no fear, readers; you will not be bored while reading this memoir thanks to the endless drama that permeates the story. Drugs, death, race riots, and suicide all compile in this relatively short work in a way that leaves a Southie outsider somewhat dazed and confused. Add to that the South Boston code of silence and you have perpetrators who seem to always get away with their illegal schemes. MacDonald himself experiences much of this drama during his youth as his family members pass away and he struggles to separate himself from the devastating effects of his home. The drama, while all completely true, keeps the reader engaged and turning the page, wondering what will happen next. Granted, there is a spoiler alert built in to the reader’s experience due to the fact that some of these events were broadcasted on national television. Nonetheless, the shocking twists left me emotionally affected at the critical points in the memoir.
    Dialogue is the last major part of a memoir that we find in All Souls. MacDonald converses with his family members, his neighbors, and others, all of which provide insight to the lingo of South Boston. The dialect is almost audible as the book is read and the authenticity of what is said, and more importantly how it is said, gives the memoir a character that is clearly reminiscent is the South Boston style. Through the f-bombs and racial slurs, MacDonald still maintains an eloquent and comprehensible voice, making him a sort of tour guide as strangers to South Boston get a glimpse inside of its everyday business.
    Reading this memoir has had an effect on my writing, and not just an effect on my memoir writing skills. As MacDonald writes his story, he incorporates the experiences of neighbors and family members. By doing so, he avoids the flat, tasteless tale that borders on egocentrism. Furthermore, the reader better understands how everybody in South Boston was involved in one another’s lives, and how they shared in their suffering. The events that MacDonald includes in his writing are extremely significant to his own development of character and morality. Each occurrence shapes him as a person as he finds himself beyond the South Boston expectations. His memoir has shown me that our growth sometimes comes through the happenings of those around us, and that those events are just as noteworthy. Finally, MacDonald proves that genuine voice, despite vulgarity and political incorrectness, is essential to providing an authentic glimpse into one’s life. It may not be pleasant or particularly easy to read, but if done properly creates a world for the reader that would probably not have access to otherwise. I do think that this book should be offered again as a memoir option for this class. It kept me highly engaged as I read through it (in a little over a week), and I was satisfied yet somewhat haunted at the end of it. I would give All Souls a 4.5 out of 5 rating.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2008

    Outrageous

    I have never reviewed a book before but I had to share this one with everyone. I read alot of true stories, this one is the best. The way it is written, it really holds your attention. I'm not just saying this, it truly is hard to put down.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2006

    Courage In Writing

    I just finished this book for my book club. I grew up on the North Shore of Boston, protected by the suburban lifestyle. We always heard about the stories from Southie. Only a half hour away from Boston my mother would NEVER let us venture into Boston alone. Still, living in the North Shore had its share of similarities. I grew up in an Irish Catholic town and although we didn't have the violence encountered in All Souls, we had the drugs and the intense racism. After leaving the area and traveling, I never really talked about the area I grew up in, I had grown to become embarresed about it because it was so, and it still, racist (openly) and over run by drugs now it seems. It seemed so ghetto to me, so uncultured and blue collared. I couldn't even imagine what it must have been like in Southie. And yet here I stand, embarressed to talk about the insignificant town I grew up in, and the problems I had there, while Michael is able to recount his whole life in Southie for the world to read. He has guts. I will still opt to remain anonymous. Courage, courage, courage.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2005

    Such a touching book

    I saw both sides of the culture clashes when I was growing up in the 1970's. I went to both a lower class neighborhood school, and an upper class private Catholic school. I am the same age as Michael McDonald's siblings, the twins, Mary and Joe, born in 1958. I related so much to many parts of this book, and thought it was so wonderful that I have bought a copy of it although had originally checked it out from the library. I would recommend this to anyone in social work, teaching, suicide survivors, recovering addicts and alcoholics, and anyone wanting to relate to family and relationship issues in any way. It's just a great read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2005

    A+ work!

    Hands down one of the best memoirs I have read in years. Truely compelling. At times I felt so bad for his family. It is such a shame that this still goes on in America. But this is a good eye opener for some.A must read for all fans of Irish-American history. I wish the author all the luck in the world.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2009

    All Souls

    I purchased this as a Christmas gift for a friend that loves to read. It caught my eye because of the locality which I am familiar with and the fact its a true story. I will read it after my friend' sister reads it.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2005

    All Souls

    Thank you Michael MacDonald for having the courage to piece together so many painful memories in order to create All Souls. No book has ever touched me like this. You are a true inspiration to all oppressed people looking for hope. All Souls has helped me in my healing/recovery and given me insight into the place where my grandparents emmigrated to, South Boston. Thank you again.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2014

    Highly recommended.  Gripping!!  Excellent Writing!!!

    Highly recommended.  Gripping!!  Excellent Writing!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    Highly recommended!!!  Excellent writing, gripping memoir, and e

    Highly recommended!!!  Excellent writing, gripping memoir, and eye opening.  Would recommend Barnes and Nobles highlight this book again!   A++++++++

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2014

    If you enjoyed Angela's Ashes you would probably like this book.

    If you enjoyed Angela's Ashes you would probably like this book.  It is very depressing and not at all entertainng.  After awhile I found it tediious because t
    It was repetitive toward the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2009

    Couldn't put it down but...

    Michael MacDonald has written a gripping story of poverty and family dysfunction. The book is a briskly paced "quick read" that makes excellent use of dialogue and grabs the reader with one tragedy after another. On the negative side, McDonald's descriptive powers are not strong. The look and feel of the Old Colony project and South Boston generally are not conjured very well. You don't smell the sea air or the exhaust fumes from Old Colony Ave. Also, the book lacks nuance. Less black and white thinking would have, at least in my opinion, made the book more truly interesting rather than just dramatic. MacDonald's thesis that suburban white liberals, gangsters, and politicians were the cause of his family's problems is very simplistic. Certainly mental illness was a bigger factor. Giving the book the title "All Souls" is misleading as religion seems to have played a minor role in the lives of the MacDonald family. The subtitle "A Family Story from Southie", too, is misleading. The family was messed up before they moved to "Southie." Even then, they just barely lived in South Boston since the Old Colony project is very near Dorchester rather than deep into S.B. One more thing -- as MacDonald himself points out it is important to note that his story is about POOR people, not working class or blue collar people. There is a big difference between the two. Many middle class suburbanites don't seem to know this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2008

    Great book..

    This book was great. growing up in a suburb of boston i could relate to the 1970's political issues and also growing up in that same time-frame. very sad at times, but definately a good read..

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2007

    A reviewer

    I can't believe that these kids made it out of Southie! The author took a seeminly hopeless existance and added the sense of pride he felt from growing up there so that the reader felt both emotions. God Bless them!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2005

    A MUST READ

    This was a truly compelling story. This should be a must read for all high school students to realize the dangers that lie out there and how they may affect all of our lives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2004

    An amazing story

    I loved this book so much I read it twice, and I NEVER read books twice. It's amazing that a world the author created actually existed. This book is by far one of my most famous books of all time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2004

    AWESOME CHOICE FOR YOUR BOOK CLUB

    We read this book for our most recent book club discussion. Everyone loved it! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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