We Are Not Ourselves

Matthew Thomas

Raised in the 1940s in the mostly Irish neighbourhood of Jackson Heights, Queens, by an alcoholic mother and a union-wage father, Eileen yearns for more from an early age. Driven by this longing, she places her stock and love in a handsome young scientist and with him begins a family. Once her childhood neighbourhood begins to slip below her standards, she pushes against her husband’s reluctance to find a home elsewhere. When it becomes clear that his reticence is part of a deeper, more incomprehensible psychological shift, the bricks of the life she thought she was building begin to crumble, and she and her son are left to grapple with a husband and a father who is, beyond their control, fading away. In this heartbreaking debut, Thomas masterfully paints the sprawling portrait of a family that heroically weathers an extraordinary storm. It is wise to the ways in which people happen, over time and with each other.

Reviews of We Are Not Ourselves

  • ‘Like John Updike in the Rabbit series Thomas concentrates on the lives of ordinary Americans … Thomas’s treatment of Ed Leary’s Alzheimer’s is extraordinary … The novel’s account of this illness and its terrible progress through a life is unsparing, but never cold or removed … Intensely moving … Thomas has quarried deep to discover emotional truth and a form and language in which to express it. ‘We Are Not Ourselves’ took 10 years to write, and justifies every one of them.’ Helen Dunmore, Guardian

    ‘Matthew Thomas’s ambitious first novel presents the life of one woman from cradle to late middle-age, and the changing backdrop of New York. Terrific’ The Times

    ‘An honest, intimate family story with the power to rock you to your core … Wrenchingly credible … Wonderfully wrought … A rich, sprawling book … One of the frankest novels ever written about love between a caregiver and a person with a degenerative disease … Thomas spares nothing and still makes it clear how deeply in love these soul mates are … [It] will reduce anyone who ever had a parent to helpless tears.’ New York Times

    ‘Unflinching and heartbreaking … The pain leaps from the page but so too does the love … epic in scale, subject and compassion … If Matthew Thomas writes nothing else, ‘We Are Not Ourselves’ will stand as a magnificent achievement.’ 5* review, Sunday Express

    ‘The greatest Alzheimer’s novel yet … Visionary and challenging … exceeds the usual boundaries of fiction on the subject … At once expansive and tangibly detailed … Resonant, finely observed … The truest and most harrowing account of a descent into dementia that I have ever read … Marvellous.’ New Yorker

    ‘A powerfully moving book.’ Chad Harbach

    ‘It’s all here: how we live, how we love, how we die, how we carry on. And Thomas does it with the epic sweep and small pleasures of the very best fiction. It’s humbling and heartening to read a book this good.’ Joshua Ferris