Scribner Press, 1996
Maureen Connolly,  Elmhurst College,IL
parent who drinks the weekly wages, no food for days at a time, rags
for baby diapers - these are topics for humor??? They can be if
you're author Frank McCourt. Oldest of seven children, he chronicles
his childhood, which was mostly spent in the Limerick slums in Ireland.
"Nothing can compare with the Irish version . . ." of growing up in poverty,
and McCourt relates his tale with wit, honesty, and sincerity.
McCourt is an expert at telling his story from the viewpoint of a child. When
he's "four going on five," he sounds like the four-year-old Big Brother. He
sees death through the eyes of a child and believes that new life arrives with
the aid of the Angel on the Seventh Step. As he grows in years, so does he
grow in knowledge, and we as readers follow along with him.
Through young Frankie's eyes, the readers learn the tragic death of three of
his siblings and join him with his mother on begging for food missions. The
reader searches the local pubs with him for his alcoholic father and watches
him steal fruit from orchards and milk bottles from houses to avoid total
starvation. In addition, Frank endures the cruelty of extended family members
as well as those "who have been dropped on their head." He suffers from the
finger pointing and name calling of peers and has a bout of typhoid, which is
almost a vacation from his ordinary circumstances of life.
In spite of the overwhelming poverty and tragedy, McCourt survives. Most
importantly, McCourt survives with a forgiving and compassionate attitude.
Perhaps greatness should never be measured by material possessions or power
but rather by the goodness of the human spirit such as seen in Frank McCourt.