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All Souls: A Family Story from Southie

All Souls: A Family Story from Southie

4.7 92
by Michael Patrick MacDonald

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ISBN-10: 0807072133

ISBN-13: 9780807072134

Pub. Date: 10/04/2007

Publisher: Beacon Press

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. The anti-busing riots of 1974 forever changed Southie, Boston’s working class Irish community, branding it as a violent, racist enclave.


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. The anti-busing riots of 1974 forever changed Southie, Boston’s working class Irish community, branding it as a violent, racist enclave. Michael Patrick MacDonald grew up in Southie’s Old Colony housing project. He describes the way this world within a world felt to the troubled yet keenly gifted observer he was even as a child: “[as if] we were protected, as if the whole neighborhood was watching our backs for threats, watching for all the enemies we could never really define.”

But the threats-poverty, drugs, a shadowy gangster world-were real. MacDonald lost four of his siblings to violence and poverty. All Souls is heart-breaking testimony to lives lost too early, and the story of how a place so filled with pain could still be “the best place in the world.”

We meet Ma, Michael’s mini-skirted, accordian-playing, usually single mother who cares for her children there are eventually eleven through a combination of high spirits and inspired “getting over.” And there are Michael’s older siblings Davey, sweet artist-dreamer; Kevin, child genius of scam; and Frankie, Golden Gloves boxer and neighborhood hero whose lives are high-wire acts played out in a world of poverty and pride.

But too soon Southie becomes a place controlled by resident gangster Whitey Bulger, later revealed to be an FBI informant even as he ran the drug culture that Southie supposedly never had. It was a world primed for the escalation of class violence-and then, with deadly and sickening inevitability, of racial violence that swirled around forced busing. MacDonald, eight years old when the riots hit, gives an explosive account of the asphalt warfare. He tells of feeling “part of it all, part of something bigger than I’d ever imagined, part of something that was on the national news every night.”

Within a few years-a sequence laid out in All Souls with mesmerizing urgency-the neighborhood’s collapse is echoed by the MacDonald family’s tragedies. All but destroyed by grief and by the Southie code that

doesn’t allow him to feel it, MacDonald gets out. His work as a peace activist, first in the all-Black neighborhoods of nearby Roxbury, then back to the Southie he can’t help but love, is the powerfully redemptive close to a story that will leave readers utterly shaken and changed.

Product Details

Beacon Press
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.51(w) x 8.48(h) x 0.71(d)

Table of Contents

1.All Souls' Night1
3.Ghetto Heaven50
4.Fight the Power79
5.Looking for Whitey107
7.Holy Water156
8.Stand-Up Guy173

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All Souls: A Family Story from Southie 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 92 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was raised during the same time as this author but I do not live in a huge city so growing up the way he had to is completely foreign to me. The book held my interest all the way through and I found myself wanting to know more about the author and his siblings when I finished the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written and eye opening book. I even lived in Boston and had no idea this kind of crime and poverty existed in the late 90's. Gritty and honest, this story helps you see poverty in a different way. Loved this book.
gabriela_boudreau More than 1 year ago
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.
Katherine Bernard More than 1 year ago
Having lived in Southy while my children were young, I found this book somewhat accurate. Great book
TheJodes More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Alex Davalos More than 1 year ago
Great story, it made me laugh and almost cry all at one. Michael tells a great story.
JCD2 More than 1 year ago
Anyone who has ever lived in Boston should read this heartbreaking story of the disintegration of an Irish family from South Boston (the greatest place on earth).  From the police to the politicians and Whitey Bulger, everyone extracted their pound of flesh from these poor, proud people who would never snitch.  To be a rat was the lowest form of sub-human life, and yet it turned out that the biggest rat of all was the king of Southie, Whitey Bulger.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly recommended.  Gripping!!  Excellent Writing!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It makes one happy that they were born in the rural south. Also, it makes you realize that blacks are not the only people living in slums in the larger northern cities.
happynappy More than 1 year ago
I am a 67 year old African-american woman and I remember the absolute ugliness of Boston during the busing period. Alabama had nothing on south Boston. The white Irish "southies" were animals and rabid racists. All Souls documents one typical "southy" family's existence and pain during this period of U.S. history. It is tragic. One hardly ever counts the costs of poverty, urban decay, corruption and racism to the majority community but ALL SOULS lists the costs to the last red cent. I was deeply moved by the heartwrenching story of the MacDonald family and hope I will be a little more open to the experiences of others due to it. While racism is intolerable and unexcusable, it is not the sole opressive issue facing our society. ALL SOULS and the the MacDonalds make it clear that all people must begin to recognize and demand change from corrupt, self-serving systems, otherwise WE will all remain victims. A very good read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will never look at people like I did before I read this book . This book will open your eyes. A real page turner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I completely love this book. It's dear to my heart. Very moving and touching. No matter how hard we think growing up was, this book is humbling. I've read it twice and will surely read it again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
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saltandpepperST More than 1 year ago
disturbing, but the raw truth...
LIBBYEM More than 1 year ago
This was so sad n yet this is a family that went Thur hard time in their life.Out of all the kids that was killed n injury.,life goes on.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.