Matthew Thomas



New York Times, “Notable Books of 2014”

Washington Post “Top 50 Fiction List for 2014”

Entertainment Weekly “Ten Best Fiction Books of 2014”

Esquire “5 Most Important Books of 2014”

Publishers Weekly “Best Books of 2014”

One of Janet Maslin’s “Ten Favorite Books of the Year” in the New York Times

Publishers Weekly “Best Books of 2014”

Cleveland Plain Dealer “Best Books of 2014”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram “Books We Loved in 2014”

Glamour “Best Books of 2014” “2014 Must-Reads” “Best Books of 2014”

Indie Next List book pick for September 2014

One of Amazon’s “Best Books of 2014”

One of Barnes & Noble’s “Best Books of 2014”

One of Apple’s “Best Books of 2014”


“[A] devastating debut novel . . . an honest, intimate family story with the power to rock you to your core . . . rich, sprawling . . . Mr. Thomas’s narrow scope (despite a highly eventful story) and bull’s-eye instincts into his Irish characters’ fear, courage and bluster bring to mind the much more compressed style of Alice McDermott. . . . This is a book in which a hundred fast-moving pages feel like a lifetime and everything looks different in retrospect. . . . This is one of the frankest novels ever written about love between a caregiver and a person with a degenerative disease.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“A long, gorgeous, epic, full of love and caring . . . one of the best novels you’ll read this year.” —The New York Times Book Review

“The Corrections. The Art of Fielding. Most years, there’s a mega-hyped American epic that’s heralded as a literary breakout. This year’s, a saga about an Irish-American family in Queens, is refreshingly unpretentious but packed with soul—and profoundly moving characters.” —Entertainment Weekly, The Must List “

A great novel about hope, heartbreak, family, and failure in America . . . written with the tensile strength of a thriller.  .  .  .We Are Not Ourselves doesn’t pile on, doesn’t hector; rather, with profound compassion and understanding and at times majesty it painstakingly lays out the three seemingly unexceptional lives as they’re lived, in the end summoning the only truly universal verity governing life in America: You can be anything you want, but in the end you’ll always be yourself.” —Esquire

“Stunning.  .  . The novel is a formidable tribute to the resilience of the human spirit, to the restorative and ultimately triumphant supremacy of love over life’s adversities.  .  .  . The joys of this book are the joys of any classic work of literature—for that is what this is destined to become— superbly rendered small moments that capture both an individual life and the universality of that person’s experience.” —TheWashington Post

“Astonishing and powerful . . . Thomas’s finely observed tale is riveting. As a reflection of American society in the late twentieth century, it’s altogether epic, sweeping the reader along on a journey that’s both inexorable and poignant.” —People, Pick of the Week

“The fallible, everyday nobility of the woman at the center of Matthew Thomas’s auspicious debut, We Are Not Ourselves, lingers in the memory: a daughter of the twentieth century whose dashed dreams find their realization in this tale of hard-won compassion and dignity.” —Vogue

“Masterly debut.” —Vanity Fair

“An ambitious, beautifully written novel about ambition and what it can do and not do [that] deals with the classic American Dream in all its messy complications.” —USA Today

“Engrossing . . . [Eileen’s] unflagging fight against an invincible opponent is carefully and compassionately portrayed.” —The Wall Street Journal “A vividly open-ended reflection of how life works (or doesn’t), with its unexpected turns, its false promises and betrayals and divides . . . We Are Not Ourselves is a solid first novel, unsentimental, multilayered, evocative of a lost world.” —Los Angeles Times

“A sweeping novel about striving, disappointment, and resilience featuring nurse Eileen Leary, a tough-as-nails daughter of Irish immigrants in dogged pursuit of the elusive American dream.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

“In his powerful and significant debut novel, Thomas masterfully evokes one woman’s life in the context of a brilliantly observed Irish working-class milieu. . . . A definitive portrait of American social dynamics in the twentieth century. Thomas’s emotional truthfulness combines with the novel’s texture and scope to create an unforgettable narrative.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Mr. Thomas’s prodigious observational and storytelling skills could at first make the reader believe that the Learys are exceptional people, living eventful lives. But they experience no more than almost any family does or will. It offers up achingly beautiful words about lives which may seem ordinary, but aren’t. We Are Not Ourselves ennobles us all.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“We Are Not Ourselves is a meticulous and moving debut that eschews the sweep of the big picture for the emotional truth of the extreme close-up.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“We Are Not Ourselves stands with the giants of Irish American literature, from McDermott and William Kennedy to the family dramas of Eugene O’Neill.” —Irish America Magazine

“It’s so achingly sad you want to put the book down; it’s so elegantly etched that you can’t. There’s a calm beauty to Thomas’s prose, and a warm but unsentimental understanding of human nature. By the book’s end, when we’re given just a little hope to grasp, you feel as if you’ve been through a real family’s tragedy.” —Seattle Times

“As anybody who has cared for a loved one in decline knows, the most devastating changes are often the smallest: the hand that doesn’t grip as tightly as it did last week, the memory that is slightly but noticeably slower. Thomas does a brilliant job of dramatizing these small moments, which, in the aggregate, create an emotionally powerful reading experience.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“Alluring prose, often depicting the simplest and most heartbreaking moments . . . Through one family, Thomas shows us the American journey— daily life with all its complexities, the gritty stories people live and the unseen heroes who endure them.” —Paste Magazine

“These are rich draughts of memory drawn from the well of American life, and we do well to savor them.” —Buffalo News

“Ambitious and beautifully written . . . Thomas spurs readers to reflect on and re-consider the constituent elements of love and a life welllived.” —Psychology Today

“Impressive . . . delicately written and extraordinarily moving.” —

“An elegy for the middle class in urban America, and for the social mobility we insist on believing in. . . . [We Are Not Ourselves] spotlights a dark place that most of us can count on visiting at some point—and shining that light on our collective fear is what a novelist, often, does better than anyone.” —

“The first great Queens novel.” —John Podhoretz, New York Post

“Without bells, whistles or flourishes, this is so fluid, so straight to the point and so wrenching in its denouement that closing it, I felt I had lived the lives myself. . . . I eagerly await Mr. Thomas’s second, third, etc. He is a master writer for the twenty-first century.” —Liz Smith,

“A gripping family saga, maybe the best I’ve read since The Corrections.” —Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly

“The greatest Alzheimer’s novel yet . . .visionary and challenging . . . Matthew Thomas’s realist epic, We Are Not Ourselves, exceeds the usual boundaries of fiction on the subject.” —Stefan Merrill Block, “A Place Beyond Words,”

“Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves is just a stunning, stunning book. A huge, ambitious story that spans three generations. . . . Possibly the most emotionally engaged I’ve been with any book this year.” —Phil Klay, author of Redeployment, in “Year in Reading,”

“We Are Not Ourselves is a powerfully moving book, and the figure of Eileen Leary—mother, wife, daughter, lover, nurse, caretaker, whiskey drinker, upwardly mobile dreamer, retrenched protector of values—is a real addition to our literature.” —Chad Harbach, author of The Art of Fielding

“The mind is a mystery no less than the heart. In We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas has written a masterwork on both, as well as an anatomy of the American middle class in the twentieth century. It’s all here: how we live, how we love, how we die, how we carry on. And Thomas does it with the epic sweep and small pleasures of the very best fiction. It’s humbling and heartening to read a book this good.” —Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End

“We Are Not Ourselves delivers the deepest, most involving and best pleasures of reading. A true epic in the best sense of the word, encompassing the big great gorgeous heartbreak that was our American Century. Each page is suffused with a relentless and probing genius, as well as a generous and humane heart, and the result not only explodes across the darkening sky, but remains with you long after you’ve finished the last page and handed it to someone you love. So long as there are novels like We Are Not Ourselves, so long as there are writers like Matthew Thomas, the form of the novel is more than alive, it is thriving, palpitant.” —Charles Bock, author of Beautiful Children

“We Are Not Ourselves is wonderful on the position of the striving classes and our longings on behalf of our families, and on how we deal with unexpected disaster. It’s as fiercely passionate and big-hearted and memorable as Eileen, its I’m-holding-this-family-together-with-my-two-hands protagonist.” —Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron


©2017 Matthew Thomas