Book Review: Singing My Him Song by Malachy McCourt (3/5)

18 Dec

Oh my gosh, I’ve been using the wrong title for this book since I started reading it! It’s Singing MY HIM Song, not Singing HIM MY Song! I feel so silly. Well, it’s all straightened out now so please enjoy and I’ve corrected everything before posing. Phew!

I wanted to read this book when I found out Malachy was the brother of Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes. I wonder how many other readers picked it up for the same reason. While Frank is a character in Malachy’s book, it’s not at all about growing up with Frank or any kind of companion to Angela’s Ashes, which I was kind of hoping for. It’s a memoir of Malachy’s adult life and, to be honest, he’s not very likable.

Cover image via Goodreads

Singing My Him Song by Malachy McCourt

Summary from Goodreads:

Malachy McCourt, bestselling author of A Monk Swimming, shares the extraordinary story of how he went from living the headlong and heedless life of a world-class drunk to becoming a sober, loving father and grandfather, still happily married after thirty-five years.

Bawdy and funny, naked and moving, told in the same inimitable voice that left readers all over the world wondering what happened next in A Monk Swimming, Singing My Him Song is “told with the frankness and honesty for which McCourt has become renowned.”

Maybe it was McCourt’s previous novel I really wanted to read, but I ended up with this one instead. It started with him in New York as a young man and moved through his relationships, career, family, and ended in his older years. I never would have guessed that he had been through so much and achieved what he did, but I also had trouble reading about it. The book jumped around a lot and plot threads were dropped and then picked up again 50 pages later which made it a hard one to read. McCourt tried to stick to one thread at a time, like his acting career, but that made his journey to sobriety seem jumpy. When he focused on that, his familiar relationships confused me. I wish it had been a bit more organized.

I felt McCourt was very fair to the people he portrayed in the book. I’m not sure how true he was to himself, but I didn’t like him and he seemed like a pretty unlikable guy for most of his life. If that’s true, then he covered it pretty well. I felt bad for Diana and his children and I thought Diana was really strong to put up with Malachy’s spotty career and absences. She was easily my favorite character and I’m glad he included her and didn’t skimp on how poor a husband he was for many years. Seeing that she was hard on him made me like her even more.

Malachy is so different from me that it was hard to relate to him. I would have a hard time coping with the spotty work he had and all the moving he did. Traveling for work would be fine, but I’d need it to be consistent. I’ve also never struggled with addiction which I think shaped a lot of McCourt’s personality so that was hard to relate to as well.

Malachy McCourt
Image via NJ.com

I thought the parts about Nina were really sweet. He cared a lot for her and I thought the extent he went to make sure she was happy was admirable. Even if they went without, Nina was cared for. He always includes her on his list of children (final paragraphs and about the author section). I thought the political campaigning they did for the care of the mentally handicapped could have been highlighted even more. During a time I didn’t like Malachy in the book, this was the one thing I held onto, thinking he really wasn’t that bad.

I almost put the book down at the beginning when Malachy was talking about opening and running bars. I thought it was really dull and it made the book hard to get into. Thankfully I was on a plane and had little choice. I’m glad I got through that but I would have preferred he started with his addiction. It’s clear he was addicted to alcohol during that time of his life and I think it would have drawn me in more as a reader rather than a list of bars he worked at.

 

Even someone who screwed up as much as Malachy was forgiven in the end. Diana had to think about it for a long time and I don’t think anyone would have blamed her if she didn’t want to be with him anymore. But he repented, gave up his bad habits, and was finally accepted back and became a part of his children’s’ lives. I think seeing his father toward the end of his life helped put this in perspective for Malachy. I would hope it doesn’t take that much for everyone in his position.

Writer’s Takeaway: I read this whole book with an Irish accent and right now, I’m thinking in one as I try to write about it. The sentence structure led me to this, but there were a few words Malachy used that were informal and made this easy as well. Instead of ‘said’ he used ‘sez’ and refers to his mother as ‘the Angela.’ These were small colloquialisms but they really set the mood of the book and I really enjoyed them.

The book was good but the organization made it hard to like. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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