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Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers' Favorite
It’s February of 1970 and in South Orange, New Jersey, Seven year old Flynn O'Shea likes living in her parents' apartment which is located above the bar they own and manage. Flynn is the youngest of the three O'Shea children Maeve being the oldest and Osheen, the only son. Flynn adores her father, Paddy, her best friend and confidant, and when he dies suddenly of a stroke, she is grief-stricken. Many years later, in 2007, single mother Flynn flies home for Thanksgiving to South Orange with her teenage daughter Didi. Flynn and Didi live in San Francisco where Flynn had worked as an attorney for eleven years. The recent downsizing of her firm has left Flynn unemployed and she has a daughter to raise and lives carefully on the money from the three restaurants her mother, Oona, had created. Upon reaching home, Flynn finds that her sister Maeve's luxurious life with husband Jeffrey Tarrant is crumbling, her mother Oona is showing signs of Alzheimer's, her brother Osheen is gamling in Atlantic City, and Didi goes off shopping with Maeve in new York City. Is this any way to celebrate a family holiday get-together?
Author Maggie Harryman has created a highly-readable story of an Irish family in modern-day America. The characters, Flynn, Maeve, Osheen, Oona, Didi and their family friends and neighbors are unforgettable as they battle and then reconcile with each other. Author Harryman creates images such as Flynn's always taking the window seat in her flights on airplanes (p.20), "imagining that her father was out there in the clouds." The book is full of witty remarks like the one we find on page 121 where Osheen is presented as "a flawed and broken man who had spent the better part of his life learning the lessons only angry women can teach.” The reader will treasure these expressions and the author's lyrical writing style that makes "Here Among Us" a masterpiece.