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All Souls

By: Michael Patrick MacDonald
Narrated by: Michael Patrick MacDonald
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Summary

The anti-busing riots of 1974 forever changed Southie, Boston's working-class Irish community, branding it as a violent, racist enclave. Michael Patrick MacDonald grew up in Southie's Old Colony housing project. He describes the way this world within a world felt to the troubled yet keenly gifted observer he was even as a child: "[as if] we were protected, as if the whole neighborhood was watching our backs for threats, watching for all the enemies we could never really define."

But the threats - poverty, drugs, a shadowy gangster world - were real. MacDonald lost four of his siblings to violence and poverty. All Souls is heartbreaking testimony to lives lost too early, and the story of how a place so filled with pain could still be "the best place in the world".

We meet Ma, Michael's mini-skirted, accordian-playing, usually single mother who cares for her children - there are eventually 11 - through a combination of high spirits and inspired "getting over". And there are Michael's older siblings - Davey, sweet artist-dreamer; Kevin, child genius of scam; and Frankie, Golden Gloves boxer and neighborhood hero - whose lives are high-wire acts played out in a world of poverty and pride.

But too soon Southie becomes a place controlled by resident gangster Whitey Bulger, later revealed to be an FBI informant even as he ran the drug culture that Southie supposedly never had. It was a world primed for the escalation of class violence - and then, with deadly and sickening inevitability, of racial violence that swirled around forced busing. MacDonald, eight years old when the riots hit, gives an explosive account of the asphalt warfare. He tells of feeling "part of it all, part of something bigger than I'd ever imagined, part of something that was on the national news every night".

Within a few years - a sequence laid out in All Souls with mesmerizing urgency - the neighborhood's collapse is echoed by the MacDonald family's tragedies. All but destroyed by grief and by the Southie code that doesn't allow him to feel it, MacDonald gets out. His work as a peace activist, first in the all-Black neighborhoods of nearby Roxbury, then back to the Southie he can't help but love, is the powerfully redemptive close to a story that will leave readers utterly shaken and changed.

©2007 Michael Patrick MacDonald (P)2021 Beacon Press
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic reviews

"All Souls is an American family story you've never imagined, an incendiary, moving book that startles on nearly every page." (Kirkus Reviews)

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From Boston to Belfast

I was given this book by the author himself 4years ago after completing a writing course with him but because of tragic deaths myself I have been unable to read books so is why I got it on audible.

Even though I thought I knew his story I didn’t really until I listened to it and the fact he read it himself shows just how good he is at what he does.

Never underestimate the number of people this man has helped with both his writing and teaching but most of all his honesty.

This book is about how we deal with adversity and shows how through activism we can bring change and hope it saves families going through what we did.

This is a real man telling a real story as it is.

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  • Randi B.
  • 17-12-22

Powerful and Profound

I have read it 3 times now and it gets better every time. Daring, heartbreaking and inspiring. Thank you

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  • BC Pro
  • 28-11-22

Wonderful reading

Sad and startling but a genuine story told with emotion and precision. I have read or listened to this book 5 times and assign it in my college classes. A must read about poverty politics violence and how families are forever changed through contextual forces.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-11-22

We are more alike than we are different.

I was bused to the new state of art school, Mario Umana Harbor school of science and Technology in East Boston. I didn’t quite understand why people of color was was treated inhumane. The bricks , stone, and the mobs of children and young adults that rush the buses were ridiculous. Yet I could not give up. My music Teacher Mr. Heart helped me find balance through music… Let’s build a city where all people can live, free , safe and peace, let’s build city where every child can grow and become as great as he can be… WE CAN make the land a place dignity, sharing our resources for all humanity come, let’s build a city city of worth, and will give birth to a kingdom on earth. Every year in February ( black history month) they tell the story of how drugs was brought into communities of color in order that they will kill themselves….growing up I heard very little to nothing negative about white youth doing crime or drugs in the media . Reading this let me know that mothers of all nationalities do their best at raising their children with the hands they have been dealt. Ms. McDonald reminds me of myself. I am a mother of 16 … 20 I gave birth to and six came from the heart… my children friends love and respect me because when I see them i see me and all I want to do is show unconditional love. I am a someone who is a safe space, I want their mother to breathe easy when they are in my presence, I am a mother who understands that community is necessary. It doesn’t matter what color you are it is important to all of us that all children are safe. We need each other. It is unfortunate that it took tragedy to bring some of us together…each one reach one each one teach one. This book was heart felt so real thanks for sharing!!!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 20-05-22

A+++❤ Very Satisfied!

Great Story, a true gritty story about Boston PJ's during the 70s 80s & 90s.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-04-22

An Irish Tale of a Time and Place

This a tragic Irish tale in the sense that among all the hardships and suffering there was always pride and hope. As an outsider you hear of the glorified legends of Southie in the movies but, Michael’s story captures the heartbreaking complex reality of the history from a first hand perspective.

I felt the telling of the story was engaging and I didn’t want to stop listening to Michael tell his stories in his authentic Southie way. It was both heart warming and heart breaking, a fantastic telling of an era in the greater Irish story.

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  • amanda dillehay
  • 17-07-21

Deep. Heartfelt. Funny at times.

I appreciate how this book helps you understand views and possibly actions from different sides of culture from this time and this area. Doesn't "ok" some of the actions but shows you where they came from