We Are Not Ourselves – A Powerful Tale of Endurance and Identity

The book “We Are Not Ourselves” is a captivating novel written by Matthew Thomas. It tells the powerful and emotional story of Eileen Tumulty, an Irish-American woman striving for a better life, and her determination to build a successful future for herself and her family.

The Plot

The story follows Eileen’s journey from a young girl growing up in a modest Irish community to becoming a wife and mother in the bustling suburban landscape of New York City.

Eileen is portrayed as a strong-willed and ambitious woman who dreams of financial stability and upward mobility. She marries Ed Leary, a brilliant scientist, with hopes that he will help her achieve the American dream. However, their life takes an unexpected turn when Ed is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at a relatively young age.

The novel explores the challenges faced by Eileen as she becomes the primary caretaker for her ailing husband while also trying to manage their son’s future and her own desire for personal fulfillment. It delves deep into themes of sacrifice, love, identity, and the complexities of human relationships.

Critical Acclaim and Awards

“We Are Not Ourselves” received widespread acclaim from literary critics, earning praise for its rich character development, intricate storytelling, and its ability to evoke powerful emotions in readers. The book was a New York Times bestseller and was selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the same publication.

Matthew Thomas’s debut novel was also a finalist for numerous prestigious literary awards, including the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Its compelling narrative and thought-provoking themes have resonated with readers around the world.

Key Characters

Eileen Tumulty: The protagonist of the story, Eileen is a resilient and determined woman who struggles to balance her dreams and responsibilities.

Ed Leary: Eileen’s husband, Ed, is initially portrayed as a brilliant scientist but later becomes the central figure of the story as he battles Alzheimer’s disease.

Connie Tumulty: Eileen’s father, whose influence shapes her character and ambition. He is an emblematic representation of the Irish-American working class.

Connie Tumulty Jr.: Eileen and Ed’s son, who grapples with his own identity and choices as he navigates through life, driven by the weight of his parents’ expectations.

The secondary characters: Several secondary characters play significant roles in shaping the narrative, including friends, neighbors, and medical professionals who assist Eileen and Ed throughout their journey.


We Are Not Ourselves is a compelling and poignant novel that takes readers on a deeply human journey. Through the trials and tribulations faced by Eileen and her family, the book explores the universal themes of love, sacrifice, and the pursuit of the American dream. Matthew Thomas’s debut novel has earned critical acclaim and touched the hearts of readers worldwide.

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