SINGING BY HIM SONG.

Publisher's Weekly Review (9-18-00)
MALACHY McCOURT. Harper Collins,
$25 (256p) ISBN 0-06-019593-2

A surprisingly tender McCourt disarms the reader with his openness and dexterous touch in this winning sequel to A Monk Swimming. Two constants undergird the book: McCourt's love for (and sometimes rocky relationship) with his second wife, Diana, and the lure of alcohol. " Of the bad habits available, I missed very few, " he admits. Variously a barkeep, raconteur, man about New York, actor, radio host and brother to the more famous Frank, the ever amusing Malachy limns his frequent problems with money, marriage and work. He casually reveals sexual molestation by priests in Limerick, Ireland; a son who was shot on a New York street; and bouts with prostate cancer and depression. When it comes to Diana's autistic daughter, Nina, who was sent to the now infamous Willowbrook State School for the Retarded on Staten Island, N.Y., McCourt passionately relates his involvement in a parent's group that helped uncover the unspeakable conditions there, generating publicity that influenced care of the mentally disabled throughout the country. His occasional anecdotes of childhood poverty in Limerick have a familiar ring, although in what might be a jab at his brother's expense, Malachy recounts a hilarious incident with his mother Angela's ashes that may appall some readers. When the author finally faced his alcohol addiction and formed a grudging relationship with God, he wrote to the father who abandoned his family. McCourt fans will be pleased that this record of a seesewing life stands on its own, and that the charming rogue has transformed into a satisfied, contemplative-and still charming-paterfamilias. (Oct.)

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