15 March 2017

We Are Not Ourselves Book Club: Week 2


My mother informed me today she's "not cut out for book club" because she doesn't want "homework" and to let her know when there's wine. My mother is also living a very waspy life and is on a beach in Florida right now so who can really blame her? 

To me, Eileen is the perfect example of what you become when you do things your whole life because you're 'supposed to' or to maintain appearances. I almost do feel bad for her. The scene where she's at work and has to find the pill that guy dropped and then saying she wants to shove it down his throat reminds me of the passage from section 1 where she explains why she chose nursing as a profession- because she felt it was more responsible than a lawyer, etc. I think anyone with an arts degree perhaps thinks they should have become a nurse at some point but we'd be exactly like Eileen stopping ourselves from pushing pills down patients throats. The house is a huge metaphor for this as well... she somehow thinks this house is going to rid Ed of depression and make her a "better wife"... she is so obsessed with appearances. I think what's sad is she'll never be happy, she always wants something more once she gets the thing she wants. The passage "space between houses was all she wanted in the world" shows this. She used to want a good husband, then she wanted a kid, now she needs this house, then what's next? It never ends.

I had so much anxiety over parenting in this section. The scene where Connell is choking and she said he was "walking around with her fate in his hands" is terrifying. That is EXACTLY why I'm not suited to be a parent, I could never love anything that much, too risky. I also thought it was super funny when Connell said the Orlandos saved his life giving him the Heimlich and she says "ok well let's not go that far"... so typical of Eileen. I also feel poorly for her because she has to watch her kid have a better relationship with Ed. I think this must be devastating, especially when it's your only child. It's partially her own fault because she's a huge bitch but it's clear she also has emotional problems showing affection and it's put a weird wall up in her relationship with Connell that's not there with Ed. I also love Ed as a parent, I think he's so sweet. The scene in the diner when he tells Connell how awesome it is to be a dad and then gives him his milkshake is heartwarming. I also love the science fair scene where he just gives that subtle thumbs up and Connell is so happy to have made his dad proud. 

Eileen's racism is also more annoying than ever in this section. She hates all the immigrants but she IS an immigrant. It's like people are too removed from that when they're born in a country. Her parents certainly weren't like this, maybe because they were the ones who immigrated? I'd love to see some psych studies on this topic. She even goes as far as to say she can't possibly be a racist and then LIES about the way she's treated by immigrants, even to her own husband, saying the lie was "closer to the truth of her lived experience"... if this isn't racism I don't know what else could be. You don't have to get a tattoo saying "I hate immigrants" to hate immigrants. I also love how she tells the story of her dad and the black driver repeatedly as though that somehow disqualifies her from racism, like that one story says it all... and then how proud she feels when she walks with those Indians to church like she's done an amazing deed. 

The scene with Ed in the classroom made me very uncomfortable and I'm dying to know what's going on there. 

Another bit that I cracked up at was when Ed really connects with the one pastor and Eileen sees him shaking his hand and says "this is too much"... that's exactly a thought I'd have and I thought it was hilarious.


Ok so I hate Eileen. I think she is a shallow, racist bitch. It honestly makes me cringe listening to her talk about their neighbourhood and how it is "being taken over." And the scene where she pretty much makes up a completely different scenario about those second generation immigrants who walk past her on the street and apologize profusely was disgusting. I don't know, it's pretty hard to see past her racism and sympathize with her. 

It is sort of touching though when Connell starts chocking and she freezes up, but then explains how much she loves him and what it would do to her if he died:

"... a feeling for him more intense than love and more mysterious had risen up from the depths of her mind. She felt that he was part of her own flesh again, as he'd been once, and that she was on the brink of dying along with him. Nothing would be the same if he died. She would go on, but her life would lose its meaning and purpose." 

Her relationship with her son is interesting. You know that she loves him so much, but she isn't really ever able to express it to him. She always mentions how jealous she is of his obvious connection to his father. She never really seems to tell her son she loves him or even show any physical affection towards him. I even find that she often calls him "the boy" while narrating.

Oh god I almost started crying reading all the sections from Connell's perspective and how he is getting bullied / beat up at school. My heart especially broke when it is revealed that he was the one who got his shorts and underwear pulled down while in gym class. This is also a writing trick I am very attracted to. I love how we hear Connell tell the story to his parents a few chapters before, saying "some kid," and then it is revealed to us a few chapters later that it happened to Connell. It also just makes me so so sad to think that a kid wouldn't be able to tell his own parents that that happened to him. 

I also wish I was smarter and knew what Thomas' reasoning was behind including these random Connell chapters. In this section we get two of them out of the blue ... buried between the typical Eileen-narration chapters.

So by chapter 16 things are starting to get really weird with Ed ... The section starts with him just obsessing over listening to his records day and night and then ends with him behaving so strangely in his classroom while Connell sits in. I was getting more and more curious and excited about finding out what is up with him then I tried to read a review of the book from The Guardian and the headline gave away what I assume is Ed's fate ... I am very pissed and bummed out that I potentially spoiled what's going on with Ed. Oh well, hopefully it is relieved in the next section of chapters and it won't feel like a spoiler.


  1. I’m glad we all feel the same way about Eileen. It makes me so anxious reading her narration, her processes, and her thoughts. She’s very narcissistic, and has very little interest in self-reflection. I think Ed and Connell are both awesome characters, It’s so frustrating to deal with Eileen.

    Her obsession with the new house is there from the moment they get the Orlando house. Like Meg said, it’s a big metaphor that continues to show us Eileens intent on keeping a specific appearance. However it really ramps up when Ed’s behaviour starts changing. When the real estate agent lists the problems with the house, NOBODY, not any person with a smidge of sense would buy that house – yet Eileen is blindly insistent that it’s perfect. I had to stop reading the night I read that part because I was so infuriated with her. She kept going on about ‘ Ed can handle the work’, ‘Connell, you and dad can handle it right?’ – NO THEY CANT, they’re both a MESS Eileen, leave them alone, this is NOT A GOOD IDEA.

    Eileen’s response to Ed’s behavioural issues is to try and change the environment, she uses this as an excuse to get extra pushy and insistent on the new house idea. I get that Eileen has had a lot of trauma in her life, the upbringing with her distant and detached parents, the alcohol abuse, their death at the same time etc. That’s not easy and has obviously shaped the woman she is. It’s just hard to watch her make all of these decisions and be motivated by her own interests, and she doesn’t see at all how her behaviours may be contributing to some of the stresses in the household. Her husband is going crazy and she doesn’t see it at all.

    There’s been a few really startling moments with Ed that make me really fear for him. I’ve got some internal alarms going on with Ed, and I have a bad feeling something is going to happen with him. I mostly just worry about the impact it’s going to have on Connell. It’s so heartbreaking to hear already what he’s going through, and you can tell he’s losing the only confidant he had in his dad.

    Let’s talk about Connell! Poor Connell! I just want to hug him, and also shake Eileen and tell her to wake up and see what’s going on with Connell. Connell needs a cheerleader, and a confidante, and someone to guide him. I hope that Connell gets through this book and comes out at end in a good place. Screw Eileen. Ed’s probably a lost cause. Again, I see a bigger storm brewing and I have a bad feeling it’s not going to be pretty.

    PS. We need something less stressful and more fun next book club.

    PPS. I think we’re again, a book club of 3.

    1. I have made the bossy decision that I will be picking the next book club book. Meg never reads anything 'uplifting'.

      Also, I agree with you about Connell although I can barely even focus on him. I think this is why you're supposed to not have only children, they are fucked. A sibling would help him or even just a parent that wasn't insane. I feel most bad for him watching his dad teach though because it's clear he's concerned but he just idolizes him so much.

      This flooding garbage house is also one of my worst nightmares. I hope to god at some point we hear the words "I regret moving" from her dumb mouth.