Young Marie’s Brooklyn neighbor Pegeen has been having problems keeping her balance as she heads back and forth to work in Manhattan; she tells Marie, “But there’s always someone nice…Someone always helps me up.”
This is Marie’s story, told in the first person as a series of vivid memories—as if Marie, as an older woman, is trying to make sense of her life’s highlights and everyday occurrences. Marie is no one particularly remarkable. To her mother, she’s a “bold piece” in contrast to her older brother Gabe’s piety and studiousness. She graduates from the Manual Training School, and, because she doesn’t want to work in New York City proper, she takes a job as a “hostess” for a Brooklyn undertaker. She dates many servicemen during WWII and marries one. She raises a family. And yet…Marie is, indeed, someone; she’s had a life filled with love, loneliness, beauty, and mystery.
Looking back through her memories, Marie recalls a summer’s evening—important because it was the night Gabe came to live with her family. She remembers going out to sit with her husband on the screened porch: “It was a homely room. The floor was painted concrete and the screens stained here and there with rust . . . Tom placed his beer on the glass-topped table. Were I to dream again, I would dream myself into this room, at this hour. I would take the fading cushion beside him.”
Someone is a beautifully-realized novel, filled with tender scenes and memorable passages. It held special meaning for me, because Marie is the same age as my own late mother, who was a child in New York during the Depression, lived through the war as a young woman (though by then she lived in Fall River, MA and worked in Newport, RI), and no doubt dated some servicemen herself. Another unremarkable life—yet she, like Marie, was someone.
NOTE: I’ve been away from my Reading Salon blog for a while—but not from reading. I’ve kept notes on recent books at Goodreads.