Friends! The question we should all be asking ourselves is why it's taking me five weeks to read one book. One 262 page book. (This is purposely not written in the form of a question because I have no good answer.) I'm also afraid I don't have the patience for <50 pages a week; it weakens the narrative for me, stretching something out like that. So I'm going to finish the book this week, and next Friday will post an open thread that you all can comment on at your leisure, and then let's move on.
I'm so happy that Eilis is finally growing a spine. There's a little paragraph in there, after she's spent the whole day crying in the basement of Bartocci's, where she realizes that she has power and can apply it at will. Sort of like the Incredible Hulk. Of course this realization comes by acknowledging that she's alone in the world, that no one—friend or family—can help her get through. She just has to get through. And I suppose that's growing up.
Miss Fortini told her to sit down and filled her another glass of water and left the room. It was clear to Eilis as she waited there that she was not going to be sacked. As a result, she was almost proud of how she had managed Miss Fortini, letting her ask all the questions and answering as little as she could, but enough not to seem surly or ungrateful. She felt almost strong as she contemplated what had just happened and she resolved that no matter who came into the room now, even if it were Mr. Bartocci himself, she would be able to elicit their sympathy. It was not as though there was nothing wrong; whatever darkness she felt had not lifted. But she could not tell them that she dreaded their shop and their customers, and that she hated Mrs. Kehoe's house, and there was nothing any of them could do for her. Yet she would have to keep her job. And she believed she had achieved that much and it gave her a feeling of satisfaction that appeared to melt into her sadness, or float on its surface, distracting her, at least for now, from the worst parts of it.
There she is, feeling out both her limits and her freedom. Also facing America in all its messy melting pot glory, where everybody hates somebody else, some group, just because they're somebody else. The Italians! The Jews! ("I didn't come all the way to America, thank you, to hear people talking Italian on the street or see them wearing funny hats." I laughed and laughed at that line.) But Eilis appreciates small graces: "The Italian women, Eilis wrote, ironed everything beautifully and put starch into her dresses and blouses, which she loved." Oh, humanity! She says little but notices much, and remembers it.
And what of that Christmas party? I loved that party, the warmth and community and tightness of it. Says Father Flood, "Yes, they are all leftover Irishmen, they built the tunnels and the bridges and the highways. Some of them I only see once a year. God knows what they live on." The promise of America: what's good can be bad and vice versa. Nothing has only one side to it.