Malachy McCourt,
Singing My Him Song
(HarperCollins, 2000)

Choosing to read Malachy McCourt's second memoir felt something like slowing down to view a nasty car crash -- I pretty much knew what to expect, but got a surprise just the same. To say he redeemed himself is a bit of an understatement.

Singing My Him Song picks up about where A Monk Swimming left off. Malachy has managed to make enough money to survive, is a permanent fixture in several New York bars, has traveled the world as a gold smuggler, has had enough one-night stands to qualify as a rock star, and has no idea what to do when he grows up.

Enter Diana. It's summer 1963, and Malachy is working in the Hamptons. Off-work hours are spent on the beach, teaching the children of other beach inhabitants to sing dirty pub songs. He sees a beautiful woman walking the shoreline with a golden-haired child in her arms, and his heart is lost. Managing to wheedle an introduction, he, for quite possibly the first time in his life, is at a loss for words: "By Christ, McCourt," I said to myself, "for all yer gift of the tongue, for all your much-vaunted charm and gallantry, you couldn't trot out the treasure trove of complimentary cliches you keep on hand in case of being caught without something to say?" Apparently, he came off quite charming, as Diana married him two years later and is married to him still.

Not that it would be an easy thing to be married to Malachy McCourt. For years afterward, he still drank himself silly most nights, still stumbled after, and tumbled into the bed of, any woman willing to offer, and still fumbled along from hand to mouth without a steady job. He accepted many bit parts and walk-ons in various movies, soaps, radio spots and late-night talk shows. It would be a while yet before he becomes a regular on the daytime soap Ryan's Hope. But there's an angel in his life now, in the form of his stepdaughter Nina, who is handicapped and in need of institutionalized care.

His part in exposing the horrors suffered by patients at Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, where Nina is eventually placed, was most likely the turning point for Malachy. He finally became involved in something big enough and important enough to cause him to look beyond himself.

And finally, looking back from his now sober and emotionally stable state of mind, he owns up to all his faults and mistakes, asks forgiveness from his family and friends, and finds that he is well loved and completely forgiven. And is deservedly so.

[ by Sheree Morrow ]

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