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The Weekly Standard
"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
|1.||All Souls' Night||1|
|4.||Fight the Power||79|
|5.||Looking for Whitey||107|
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?
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 25, 2013
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.
7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 13, 2013
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.
5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 1, 2013
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 28, 2011
Posted April 26, 2013
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 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 31, 2011
Posted April 26, 2013
Posted December 25, 2011
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.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 4, 2009
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 21, 2014
"Kid, Shinigami-sama wants you in the Death Room." Stein said, tugging on his sleeve. I glanced up from where I was, putting down my pencil.
"Alone?" I asked, then got up. Liz and Patty shot me looks of curiousity as I was leaving.
"Father? You asked for me?" I asked, walking into the room.
"Kiddo!" My father chirped, "Wanna join us?" He asked. Us? Who el-
"Hello." A girl about my age sat next to him, a shy smile on her face. I was speechless. She-she was beautiful. Symmetrical? Yes. But also gorgeous. Her black hair fell around her shoulders, the three lines that I despised on me matching her looks beautifully. Her gold eyes bore a similarity to mine, but hers had no pupil. She was perfect.
"He-hello." I stammered.
"Kid, this is Marie. She's your younger sister. Marie, this is Death the Kid. He's your big brother." Father introduced, oblivious as usual. I sensed Marie's soul, and was shocked. Witch, Kishin, AND Shinigami? She seemed completely at ease, though.
"Pleased to meet you." Marie said politely.
"Kid, could you please show Marie home?" My father asked.
"What about Peytan?" Marie asked, worried. I nodded.
"Peytan? She said she thinks she has family here. Which is true. One of my Death Weapons, Justin Law, is going to be her guardian." My father reassured her, putting his hand on her shoulder. "Now, Kid. Take your sister home, will you?"
"What was she like?" Liz asked.
"She looked a lot like me." I replied, picking at my food. "Her soul was extremely powerful."
"I could sense it, too. A soul like that is extremely dangerous. Especially now." Maka agreed. I looked up, sending a small nod in her direction. The whole way home, Marie was silent, nearly falling over from exhaustion.
"Not as powerful as the almighty Black*Star's!" Black*Star shouted, irking me.
"She seems pretty cool from what I can tell." Soul said. Patty was quiet, making a giraffe out of her food. I could hear conversations going around of the powerful soul that was in the DWMA, and if it would help with our invasion of Arachnaphobia. I hoped it helped. I hope my father was doing the better thing, letting Marie and her weapon come.
Posted February 28, 2014
Posted February 14, 2014
Posted February 7, 2014
Posted February 7, 2014
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!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 6, 2014
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.
Posted February 5, 2014
Posted January 30, 2014
Posted January 27, 2014
Yay new chapter! It's sooo good...by the way I'm starting a story a 'trigonometry' res 1-3. Nothing to to with the search term, just though math textbooks = virtually no existing reviews or Rps...Keep going!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 27, 2014