Simple yet affecting follow-up to MacDonald’s raw debut memoir, All Souls (1999).
The previous book detailed in broad brushstrokes a difficult life growing up in the Old Colony housing project of prideful, Irish-Catholic South Boston. The author, now nearing 40, digs deeper this time, providing a more introspective, personal tour (spliced with pages of song lyrics) of his loss of innocence as one of nine children living in a drug-and organized-crime-ridden environment, barely supervised by his wise, accordion-playing Ma. His neighborhood provided a generally pleasant though restrictive enclave of family and friends, but MacDonald craved “venturing alone beyond Southie’s borders.” The early-’80s punk-rock scene afforded him all that and more. Though initially pensive, teenager MacDonald, inspired by Patti Smith, was soon shoplifting his first Sex Pistols album, attending school with spiky pink hair and a dog collar and covering his bedroom windows with black cloth. This behavior led to late nights sneaking into bars with new friends, finding himself onstage at a Siouxsie and the Banshees concert, then skipping school altogether. New York City and dance clubs like Danceteria and the Mudd Club provided a much-needed respite from the increasingly treacherous streets of Southie, but nothing could prepare MacDonald for the systematic deterioration of his siblings: Schizophrenic Davey killed himself, Kathy almost succumbed to a drug overdose, Frankie and Kevin met violent ends. Eventually, situational stresses began to weigh heavily on MacDonald’s psyche, and he turned to alcohol and drugs “to erase, to forget about everything”—except the funeral for the father he barely knew. After therapy, he moved onward to several carefree, if penniless, weeks in Europe, but an enlightening visit to Ireland with his mother was what really turned him around. Though the author, now a social activist, emerged physically unscathed from his upbringing, the emotional scars he bears are undeniable.
Blistering scrapbook pages from a melancholy childhood.