Up Late with We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
I had a student bring in this massive book, drop it on my desk, and tell me in no uncertain terms, that I had to read it. I’d just recently read Let the Great World Spin, also recommended by a student, so I needed something epic and something engaging. I took it home, and proceeded to fall asleep reading it for the next week. I just never wanted to put it down. I even graded early to clear my schedule so I could spend a few hours on it one night.
There were so many things to love in this book. That it followed Eileen Tumulty from her childhood to her old age (and even allowed us some time with her adult son) was one of the reasons I loved it–it encompassed an entire life, not just one portion of a life. Another element I found engaging was her struggle with her husband’s increasing illness. I’d recently read The Unseen World and I could see what was coming about 200 pages before it happened, which almost made it worse. But what I particularly enjoyed was the precisely crafted language, the searing observations about human nature, and the way I could relate to Eileen on so many levels. As usual, here are some favorite passages:
- “You are not in this life to count up victories and defeats. You are in it to love and be loved.”
“The point was to do what you did and do it well.”
- “Maybe your imagination stopped at the boundaries that contained it.”
- “So much of life was the peeling away of illusions.”
- “Empathy. He hadn’t always had it. It was a muscle you had to develop and then keep conditioned. Sometimes he thought his real goal wasn’t to teach them to write better essays but to get them to think more about what it meant to be human.”