All Souls: A Family Story from Southie

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A breakaway bestseller since its first printing, All Souls takes us deep into Michael Patrick MacDonald's Southie, the proudly insular neighborhood with the highest concentration of white poverty in America. Rocked by Whitey Bulger's crime schemes and busing riots, MacDonald's Southie is populated by sharply hewn characters like his Ma, a miniskirted, accordion-playing single mother who endures the deaths of four of her eleven children. Nearly suffocated by his grief and his community's code of silence, MacDonald...

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A breakaway bestseller since its first printing, All Souls takes us deep into Michael Patrick MacDonald's Southie, the proudly insular neighborhood with the highest concentration of white poverty in America. Rocked by Whitey Bulger's crime schemes and busing riots, MacDonald's Southie is populated by sharply hewn characters like his Ma, a miniskirted, accordion-playing single mother who endures the deaths of four of her eleven children. Nearly suffocated by his grief and his community's code of silence, MacDonald tells his family story here with gritty but moving honesty.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
[A] rare and compelling book . . . Highly passionate.—Liam Ford, Chicago Tribune

"His anecdotes have the searing power of a redeemed sinner's fiery sermon. His swift, conversational style sweeps you into his anger and sorrow. He is a born rabble-rouser whose emotional power numbs the reader's reason."—Charles Carberry, USA Today

"All Souls is a memoir filled with desperation and despair, but there is also hope in it . . . MacDonald's discovery of his vocation in neighborhood activism is a refreshing change from most memoirs, which so often . . . are largely concerned with describing an ascent to celebrityhood." —Julian Moynahan, New York Review of Books

"Michael Patrick MacDonald takes us on a heartbreaking tour of his South Boston family." —Frank McCourt, Irish America Magazine

"An incendiary, moving book that startles on nearly every page . . . MacDonald's nimble prose and detailed recall of grim times long past make for luminous reading; his hard-won conception of how ghettoized poverty spawns localized violence, and the dignity he brings to lives snuffed out in chaos, gives All Souls a moral urgency usually lacking in current memoir or crime prose. A remarkable work." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"All Souls leavens tragedy with dashes of humor but preserves the heartbreaking details."—Brent Staples, New York Times Book Review

"If you were charmed by Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes but wished at times the author would have got out of the way of his own beguiling style, try All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, Michael Patrick MacDonald's guileless and powerful memoir of precarious life and early death in Boston's Irish ghetto."—R. Z. Sheppard, Time

"A must read . . . All Souls is poised to become one of the most significant Irish American books of the era."—Irish Edition

"MacDonald has a gift for narrative, an eye for social detail, and a voice of earned authenticity."—Jack Beatty, Author of The Rascal

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this plainly written, powerful memoir, MacDonald, now 32, details not only his own story of growing up in Southie, Boston's Irish Catholic enclave, but examines the myriad ways in which the media and law enforcement agencies exploit marginalized working-class communities. MacDonald was one of nine children born (of several fathers) to his mother, Helen MacDonald, a colorful woman who played the accordion in local Irish pubs to supplement her welfare checks. Having grown up in the Old Colony housing project, he describes his neighbors' indigence and pride of place, as well as their blatant racism (in 1975 the anti-busing riots in Southie made national headlines) and their deep denial of the organized crime and entrenched drug culture that was destroying the youth and social fabric. MacDonald's account is filled with vivid episodes: of his brother Davey's horrific incarceration in Mass Mental and ultimate suicide; of the time Helen took her older kids to the hospital, where her current lover was a patient, to beat him up after he denied he was the father of the child she was carrying; of the murder of his brother Frankie by his compatriots after the police shot him in an armored-car robbery. But perhaps most shocking is the accusation that the FBI was paying Southie's leading gangster, Whitey Bulger, as an informant although they knew he was the neighborhood kingpin. MacDonald, who now works on multiracial social projects in Boston, does not excuse Southie's racism, but he paints a frightening portrait of a community under intense economic and social stress, issuing a forceful plea for understanding and justice. Agent, Palmer and Dodge. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Seth A. Gitell
What makes the book significant, however, are not the neighborhood secrets MacDonald discloses, but the possibility it holds out for a new way to think and talk about race in America...the gritty saga of the South Boston MacDonalds should be read by anybody looking for a gripping and full account of poverty in urban America.

The Weekly Standard

Kirkus Reviews
An incendiary, moving book that startles on nearly every page. The notorious anti-busing riots of 1974 forever altered the insular working-class Irish community of South Boston, branding it indelibly as a dangerous, racist enclave. Anti-violence activist MacDonald grew up there and lost four out of eight siblings to violence in those dark times; his debut assesses both his family history, and related secret tales of class strife, bigotry, corruption, and vanished lives. MacDonald utilizes the classically Irish viewpoint of the stoic child to re-create a harsh arena of a 1970s ghetto and urban poverty. His single "Ma" felt blessed when a local politician secured her entrance to the majority-Irish Old Colony project, "the best place in the world"; once there, the MacDonalds had to prove their mettle against delinquents with shotguns, thus acquiring the patina of "craziness" necessary for survival. At first, the nuances of color seemed minor against a vividly rendered backdrop of economic difficulty and the depraved mainstreaming of hard drugs and street crime. Then came the riots; MacDonald's surefooted (neither hardened nor sentimental) narrative takes us through the years of malaise and violence that followed, as politically connected gangsters, such as the notorious Whitey Bulger, expanded the area's drug trade while violently enforcing a macho myth of silent Southie unity, itself built on the long-burnished notion that the white community was somehow "different" from such similarly working-class, embattled black areas as Roxbury. This explication of how such phenomena of white class-consciousness encouraged the wholesale deterioration of his neighborhood and contributed to the demiseof some 250 young people is a devastating cultural indictment. MacDonald's nimble prose and detailed recall of grim times long past make for luminous reading; his hard-won conception of how ghettoized poverty spawns localized violence, and the dignity he brings to lives snuffed out in chaos, gives All Souls a moral urgency usually lacking in current memoir or crime prose. A remarkable work. (Author tour)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807072134
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 10/4/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 132,183
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 5: “Looking for Whitey”

Another one to make you a slave.’’ that’s what Nana said to Ma, looking at Seamus in the nursery at St. Margaret’s Hospital. Ma just laughed at her. She’d never gotten along with her mother—Ma said she was old-fashioned—and there was no sense in trying to relate now. Nana and Grandpa hadn’t even known Ma was pregnant until she went into labor. Ma kept it from them, knowing they’d judge her and her baby since she wasn’t married to Coley. She just wore big coats and held her big leather pocketbook in front of her stomach whenever she went to their house, among those lace curtain Irish neighbors in West Roxbury. Nana and Grandpa knew about me being illegitimate, but they never mentioned it, since most of their friends from Ireland thought that I’d come from Ma’s marriage to Mac—‘‘a bad marriage but a marriage before God nonetheless,’’ as Father Murphy said. I was close to Nana; she was my godmother and had been Patrick’s godmother too, so she took a special liking to me. I just had to brush off the bad things she said about Ma, and now I had to ignore her frowning gaze at Seamus. To make things more confusing for Nana and Grandpa’s Irish friends, Ma gave Seamus the last name King, from her short marriage to Bob King, whom they’d barely met. She had to put some name on the birth certificate; she knew welfare would never find Bob King, since he was probably homeless; and even though she’d gotten back together with Coley, we couldn’t be sure he’d stick around for too long. Ma was looking out for us again, making sure our welfare check wouldn’t be cut.

All I knew was that I was thrilled to come straight home from St. Augustine’s every day to see my little brother. I remember how clean and fresh he smelled even when he spit up on my shoulder. I was tired of all the battles, the rock throwing and the protests, and I was excited to be around something so new as Seamus. I just wanted to protect him, to keep him as fresh as the day he was born; and I became aware of how hard that might be when I started to take him out for a push around the front courtyard of Patterson Way, with all the buckled-up concrete catching the carriage wheels.

Ma liked me to take him outside every day after school. She always complained that the air in our apartment was bad for kids, with the smell of cockroach exterminator and the radiators going full blast even on a warm Indian summer afternoon. It seemed as if all the kids in the neighborhood had asthma. I’d walk Seamus in circles, around and around, on the beaten-up cement out front. The women on the stoop followed me with their eyes. I kept count so I could tell Ma how many times I’d pushed him around. ‘‘That’s twenty-nine times already!’’ I’d yell up to Ma. ‘‘Keep going,’’ she’d say from the window, ‘‘the air’s good for him.’’ I liked minding Seamus, but everyone wanted to come and look at him and smile in his face. Chickie was friendly to us now, and one time she came up to us, fixing Seamus’s blanket in a motherly way, and yelling up to Ma that all Ma’s kids looked like movie stars. Then she started talking baby talk. ‘‘Hiyaaa, hiyeee sweetie,’’ she sang, in the sweetest softest voice I’d ever heard coming out of her mouth. I started to see how babies did that to people, changed their voices and everything, no matter how mean or tough they seemed right before they’d laid eyes on the baby. Skoochie came by to show me the baby clothes she’d stolen downtown, taking them out of bags and sizing them up against Seamus, lying in his carriage. I sent her up to Ma, and she soon came back downstairs, folding up her empty bags. With Ma’s money in her hand, she called over to some teenagers I’d heard were selling pills. I just kept walking in circles, watching the action in the streets. Kids my age would ask if they could push the carriage, and when I let them they’d start running fast right off the curb toward the traffic—for some excitement, I guess. That kind of stuff made me frantic and nearly got me into a few fistfights, but everyone usually backed down from me, since the kids in the neighborhood were still afraid of my big brothers.

The worst thing about minding Seamus was when I’d hear a neighbor down the street calling someone a douchebag or a cunt. I couldn’t believe they’d say those words in front of a baby. Of course, they didn’t think they were doing it in front of a baby—they were down the street. I half realized that since Seamus was only a few weeks old anyway, it probably didn’t matter what he heard; and when they’d come up to the carriage the same people who’d just called someone a douchebag would start talking baby talk to him and tucking in his blanket. But I couldn’t help worrying for Seamus, with his fresh clean baby smell and brand-new terry cloth baby suits, in the middle of all this anger and confusion and drug dealing and fighting. I still loved our world of Old Colony, but I wasn’t always so sure about that now that I had a little brother to wheel around the broken-up courtyards.

After Seamus was born, the Boston Housing Authority broke down one of our walls for us, adding a second apartment. Only three families in Old Colony had a ‘‘breakthrough’’ apartment. Ma had pulled a few strings with the local politicians she’d met by volunteering for the South Boston Information Center and by playing the accordion at political fundraisers. We were the envy of the neighborhood now, with ten rooms in all, including two kitchens and two bathrooms. We had so much space that Ma had to start collecting furniture from the dumpster to fill up the house. I’d yell out the window to Ma, begging her to stop going through the dumpster, pulling out chairs. I didn’t want anyone to see her. My friends all bragged about their expensive living room sets stolen from the backs of trucks. But she’d just play it up, dragging some contraption behind her up three flights of stairs, ‘‘Look at this beautiful recliner!’’ It was really a lawn chair that one of the ladies on the stoop had left outside, expecting it to still be there when she got back. I was always afraid to let friends in the house, because they might find something that they’d thrown in the trash or just left outside.

We had it made now. Most of us had our own bedroom, and I had a feeling we would be in Old Colony forever. Ten fully furnished rooms with wall-to-wall green, blue, and orange shag rugs; free heat, light, and gas; Skoochie’s designer-label clothes for a quarter the price; all the excitement right out our front windows—‘‘Scenes better than anything on the TV,’’ Ma said—and the thrill of being on the inside of the exclusive world of Old Colony. We were privileged. And even though I was still a little worried for Seamus, I could convince myself, like everyone else, that we were in a superior kingdom.

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Table of Contents

1. All Souls' Night 1
2. Freedoms 16
3. Ghetto Heaven 50
4. Fight the Power 79
5. Looking for Whitey 107
6. August 135
7. Holy Water 156
8. Stand-Up Guy 173
9. Exile 199
10. Justice 223
11. Vigil 254
Acknowledgments 265
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Reading Group Guide

1. A dramatic, telling scene "in which decades of silence are broken" opens All Souls. How does the scene echo throughout the memoir? How does that which motivates Southie residents to speak of tragic loss on All Souls' Night compare to the anguish that compelled Michael Patrick MacDonald to tell his story?

2. Describe the tone in which All Souls opens. How does it shift throughout the memoir? The chronicling of what sorts of events necessitates a change in tone? Is there consistency or dissonance between the way MacDonald writes about the drama around him and his interior world?

3. In his opening chapter MacDonald speaks of the seductiveness and threat of Southie myths. Describe those myths. In what ways is All Souls an act of demythologizing, and to what extent does it romanticize Southie?

4. "For my family, " writes MacDonald, "freedom had become the rule above all others." Discuss the sort of freedom he has in mind. What are the most considerable threats to it? How do abstractions such as poverty and prejudice manifest themselves as real obstacles to the freedom desired?

5.  Motherhood receives significant attention throughout All Souls, both in the author's all-important relationship to "Ma" and in the triumphs and trials of mothers throughout the Old Colony Project. What distinguishes Ma? How is she at once recognizable and unique? What do we learn about the challenges facing, and the resources available to a single mother in poverty?

6. Fathers for the most part are absent from Old Colony. What are the repercussions of this absence? Who or what attempts to fill the gap? To what sort of masculinity dothe young men of the neighborhood aspire without father figures? How do Whitey Bulger and his ilk exploit and perpetuate this absence?

7. MacDonald has said that the "old neighborhood is dead in America." Does its portrait in All Souls strike you as anachronistic or anomalous, reverential or conflicted? Explain. What are the strengths and problems of an intimate, if often insular and isolated, neighborhood? What has contributed to the decline of the tight-knit community in the United States?

8. In commenting on the future of South Boston, MacDonald has said that forced integration and gentrification have ruined the possibility for the emergence of a functionally diverse neighborhood. He foresees something akin to "apartheid, where everybody in the projects is of color and everybody out of the projects is white, middle-class, single, and has no children." In All Souls what foreshadows this future? How is Southie's evolution like and unlike that of many metropolitan neighborhoods?

9. How does All Souls complicate or illuminate the issue of racism in America today? What contributed to the intolerance exhibited by many in Southie during busing, and how did it differ in kind and degree from racism elsewhere? What is the author's attitude toward race and racists?

10. Catholicism provides a framework for much of the action in All Souls. Provide examples of the various ways by which MacDonald uses religion to tell his many stories. To what extent does Catholicism shape the author and his approach to narrative? For example, what do we make of his use of confession, souls, and ceremony?

11. Comment on the role of humor in All Souls. How would you characterize it? In what ways does it function as a two-edged sword? Does the idea of dark humor transcend Irishness to resonate in other cultures?

12. All Souls provides an examination of white urban poverty today. Have you considered the subject before picking up the book? Why does the issue seem largely ignored by the media? How does social class shape the lives chronicled in the book? How is it a red herring?

13. Explain the moral complexities of the busing incident. What factors contributed to its violent unfolding? Did MacDonald's recounting of the riots challenge your views of the participants in those riots?

14. MacDonald has said that the arrest of his younger brother Stevie marked a turning point in his life, a move from observation and contemplation to action and confrontation. Chart the evolution of the author's character and views throughout the memoir. Which moments revealed their significance to him immediately? Which only in retrospection?

15. Southie is as complex a character in All Souls as any of the MacDonalds. Examine the author's changing and at times conflicting relationship to the place? Point to these pivotal moments. What does Southie mean to MacDonald at the close of the memoir?        

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 43 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2011


    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:


    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


    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


    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


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

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