Alice McDermott’s new novel, Someone, shows scenes from the life of Marie, who grew up in Brooklyn during Prohibition and the Depression, and whose life spans through the present day. In many ways, Marie’s life is completely ordinary– the situations she faces as she grows and ages are nearly universal, yet McDermott manages to captivate her readers with the details of Marie’s life story. In the first pages of the novel, we learn that Marie is nearsighted. McDermott frequently mentions what things look like for Marie when her glasses are off, and the book is full of colors, textures, details that Marie might notice more than other characters would because of the condition of her eyes.
When I look in the mirror, I avoid looking at my stomach. I’ve been doing this for years. In the shower too– I close my eyes, soap up my hands, and lather up my stomach. Some women hate their thighs or their boobs or their nose or their butt, but my problem spot has always been, and always will be, my belly. I don’t want anyone to touch it, pat it, or acknowledge it exists. And while I hate to look at my stomach in the mirror, it’s the first place my eyes go when I see pictures of myself. Is it getting fatter? Can you see my love handles? I will gladly hang up a family photo where I have a screwy look on my face and one of my kids has their tongue stuck out if I look skinnier in that picture than any of the others.