If you want an Irish tale of misery, abuse and ultimately hope, then this is an absolute must-read. His mother's name in the title, it's a true-life account of Frank McCourt's journey from his birthplace in Brooklyn, New York, to his new home in Ireland. Well, not exactly a "home" in the true sense, as it's a run-down, habitually cold flat in one of Ireland's poverty-stricken, infamous lanes. Young McCourt has to contend with the deaths of his twin brothers and sister, in a household held together by a struggling mother and an alcoholic father. Although Irish-American, he is a stranger in his homeland as his school chums and adult figures consider him a Yankee, an oddity of sorts. He has a lot of issues to sort through, including poverty, hunger, sadistic schoolmasters and Irish Catholic repression by the British. It's a lot for a little guy to have to evaluate, but he's an introverted thinker at a tender age. There are conflicts galore in his story, not the least of which involve relationships. For example, his father is a loving person who dotes on his children and maintains a calm demeanor while sober. When he's spent the family's dole (welfare) money on booze, it's an entirely different matter. Frank appears to have a true love-hate relationship with him, dependent on the father's particular state.
His mother endures the suffering in a typically old-country manner, but conversely let's her feelings known during tense periods of crisis. Her true feelings about the Catholic Church caught me by surprise, as she possesses a very cynical outlook on the institution and, in particular, the priests. As far as Angela is concerned, they fail miserably in attending to the poor parishioners. The underbelly of Ireland’s caste system is also exposed very clearly. It’s not all darkness, however, as there are many humorous episodes interspersed throughout the story. His descriptions of life around him are wry, cynical, hilarious and sometimes touching. I couldn't put the book down as his Irish "voice" lures you into his youthful world, to share his experiences through his eyes and words. He has a remarkable gift of story telling in the first-person point of view and superbly paints a painful and poignant memoir of growing up in Ireland.