MA, HE SOLD ME FOR A FEW CIGARETTES by Martha Long

MA, HE SOLD ME FOR A FEW CIGARETTES

A Memoir of Dublin in the 1950s

KIRKUS REVIEW

The story of a poverty-stricken young girl growing up broke—but not broken—in 1950s Dublin.

In the first of four volumes, Long lays the groundwork for the tale of her lifetime of hardships. Just 4 years old at the start of the book, the author had to grow up fast in the extreme poverty that engulfed her. Born to a teenage mother whose primary talent seemed to be childbearing, Long was forced to do anything she could to survive, including drinking milk from a sibling’s bottle. “Me Ma doesn’t give me anthin te eat these days,” she writes, “so I share the babby’s bottle wit him.” These desperate acts are continually on display throughout the book, and they are made most apparent on the day of Long’s first Communion, when she was told to fast until after receiving the Lord. “I don’t want Holy God,” she wailed, “I want a bit of bread." Yet poverty was but one of many struggles Long faced. The other main one, her cruel-hearted stepfather, Jackser, proved the more complicated of the two. In a particularly horrific scene, Jackser demonstrates his villainy by dangling Long’s baby brother over a bannister to show his resentment at having to take in another man’s children. After much pleading, Jackser relented. “Here, take it,” he grumbles, handing the baby over to its mother. “An count yerself lucky he’s not splattered in the hall.” Yet Long knows little of luck, and her book demonstrates her impressive determination and perseverance.

Coming-of-age hardships skillfully recounted by way of the colloquial Irish tongue.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-60980-414-5
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Seven Stories
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2012




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