Hungry Hill
Carole O'Malley Gaunt
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Buy *Hungry Hill: A Memoir* by Carole O'Malley Gaunt online

Hungry Hill: A Memoir
Carole O'Malley Gaunt
University of Massachusetts Press
284 pages
June 2007
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

buy this book now or browse millions of other great products at
previous reviewnext review

Memoir writing is all the rage these days, everyone under the sun rushing to pen epistles about their dysfunctional families, bad marriages, battles with disease, etc., etc. I don’t mean to sound heartless, and I enjoy a good story about other people’s misery as much as the next guy, but I occasionally wonder where all this literary catharsis will end.

So why read Hungry Hill, Carole O’Malley Gaunt’s memoir about her dysfunctional motherless family, her alcoholic father who loses all desire to live, and the evil stepmother who makes life miserable for Carole and her seven brothers?

For one thing, Gaunt’s storytelling abilities are terrific. She’s never maudlin or trite, and she laces even the most pathetic scenes with just a modicum of poignant humor.

“We drive by the bakery, the stone library, the A&P, the Liberty Bar, and Mastroianni’s gas station. Back in seventh grade, I had a crush on Jackie Mastroianni. I know where’re we going, to the funeral home, to my mother’s funeral, to church, to St. Michael’s Cemetery, but I don’t have to think about all that. I’d rather think about Jackie Mastoianni in his white shirt with the rolled-up collar.”
The eight O’Malley children have distinctive personalities, which Gaunt captures beautifully on the page. Michael, the oldest and most respected; Gerry, the joker; Danny, the flirt; Joey, the angry one…; and of course, Gaunt herself, the only girl, the one her father labels “a tough cookie.”

A good memoir can evoke the spirit of a society as well as illuminate the life of a person. Hungry Hill is a fascinating portrait of a family, but it’s also a portrait of a time and place – an Irish Catholic working-class neighborhood in the early 1960s. Gaunt sees it for what it really is with all its limits and prejudice, a time when problems weren’t discussed aloud, when everyone was expected to “deal with it,” whatever “it” might be, without help from anyone.

Gaunt writes with such insight about herself and her brothers, insight marked with compassion and understanding which encourages the reader to examine their own family structure for clues about themselves. Gaunt’s reaction to her mother’s death was typical for a girl of that age and time: denial, denial, denial. As she watches her father retreat into a world of Seagram’s and Sinatra (his remedy for dealing with grief), she develops her own method of handling her mother’s loss.

“Because of him, I’ve given up mentioning the word ‘mother’ anymore. It’s not really all that hard. I pretend to myself she’s downtown shopping and I have no idea when she’s coming home.”
The need to “hold the fort” was ever present in her mind, even as she completed high school with academic honors and worked two jobs to save money for college - “The loneliness, the hurt, the secrecy, the isolation, the shame, I stuffed down into the pits of my brick-hard soul.” Urged to be “strong for her brothers,” Carole “never thought to ask, well, what about me?”

Although the subject matter of Hungry Hill is (sadly) all too familiar, Gaunt’s compassionate, clear-eyed treatment sheds new light on an old story. The narrative is written in short, essay-like chapters interspersed with scenes from a fictional present-day written in script format. (Gaunt, a playwright, has written a play based on this book.)

Among the chorus of voices raising memoirs these days, Hungry Hill is distinctive and well worth reading.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Rebecca Rowan, 2008

buy *Hungry Hill: A Memoir* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.