Saturday, January 2, 2010

First Book Review of 2010: "Angela's Ashes"

Goals and dreams mark the beginning of a New Year. The Chapter Two Blog is no exception. The focus will primarily be book reviews with a dessert or wine pairing recommendation.
Wine pairing is always associated with food. Chapter Two believes that books are the food of the mind, thus our wine pairing concept evolved.

Kicking off the year is a review of a book that catapulted Frank McCourt to the top of his field netting him a Pulitzer Prize. The book moved me so, I recently won a book review contest with this recap:
Angela’s Ashes: A Phoenix Among Books

“Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt left a handprint on my heart. It is an unforgettable tale of an impoverished Irish Catholic childhood spent in the Limerick slums. Never has a book moved this avid reader so deeply.

Eating a tasty meal and contently sleeping in a comfortable bed are things I could no longer take for granted after reading “Angela’s Ashes.” Oh how I wished to feed the McCourt children until their concaved bellies and hollow cheeks swelled with nourishment. McCourt’s writing was so clear and soulful, I felt one with the book – as if I lived in that squalor-filled apartment, too.

McCourt effortlessly transported the reader back to his home in Ireland. It is a journey filled with tragedy and depravation, but McCourt’s underlying humor drives the reader to hope that little Frankie will indeed find the Irish luck he so desperately needs.

No comfort is to be found in the church that governs their lives or a mother that is distracted with her own demons. It is the art of storytelling that is Frank’s only salvation and probably the reason why he was such a powerful writer. His mostly absent alcoholic father filled the boy’s mind with glorious tales of Ireland’s heroes of the past. It was Frank’s escape from his dreary life, if for just precious moments.

As Frank McCourt finally sailed away to America, my hopes for a better life for him were a passenger, too. Like little Frankie, I am hungry, too after reading Angela's Ashes. I was craving to consume more of the McCourt family saga. He could not write the sequel - 'Tis: A Memoir - fast enough for my liking! It was followed by Teacher Man: A Memoir. "Angeles Ashes" remains my favorite of his writings. My appetite for more McCourt tales wasn’t sated. When I happily discovered brother Malachy is also an author I read “A Monk Swimming A Memoir”, and “Singing My Him Song.” Brother Malachy has a bawdy style of writing, while Frank's is melancholy.

I grew up in an isolated area where reading was my family’s passion, and it still is today. They were thrilled when I gave them “Angela's Ashes” for Christmas one year. Later, my siblings took turns reading my copy of “Tis”. I glance at my beloved McCourt books hugging one another on my bursting bookshelf. It warms my heart to know their story affected my family and in some ways, brought us closer as we shared our thoughts on the McCourts’ plight.

The saddness of the McCourt journey and the devasting role alcohol played in it leads me to forgetting the wine pairing out of respect. While reading the book I recommend the pairing a cup of Irish Breakfast Tea and a modest serving of Irish Cheese .

Cheers to the late great Frank McCourt.

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