'Tis is the follow-up novel to Frank McCourt's best-selling memoir, Angela's Ashes. (Ironically, McCourt originally wanted to call his first book 'Tis and the second Angela's Ashes.) This book begins as the nineteen-year-old McCourt arrives back to his native America.
The first detail is that, as a boy, McCourt dreamed about the New York skyline (a "tormenting dream," as he mentions in the prologue); however, his freighter ship docked at Albany, so he never got the joy of seeing his beloved city in that magical moment from the ship as he had dreamed of doing--and he had to backtrack just to get there at all. Of course, this is a rather prophetic incident, since the idyllic world McCourt had envisioned finding on his return to America never became a reality, at least not for many years.
A second detail is that McCourt's first job in New York was working cleanup at the Palm Court at the Biltmore. This is a place where students from Ivy League schools would come and enjoy cocktails, and it was a great humiliation to McCourt to be so close to some of the things he desperately wants but has little hope of achieving. Eventually his envy drives him to begin his own academic journey in the reading room of the New York Public Library. Of course, from there he attends college and becomes a teacher and then a writer; however, it was a humbling and rather humiliating beginning, just like his arrival in America.
One last detail from the novel concerns his love-hate relationship with Ireland. While he lived there in abject poverty and wanted nothing more than to leave it (and come to America, the Promised Land), McCourt weeps when he has a chance to return for a visit. He is in the service during the Korean War; he is stationed in Germany and has the opportunity to go to Ireland and visit his family. He certainly has mixed feelings about both his family and his country,
But when the plane approaches the coast and the shadows of clouds are moving across the fields and it's all green and mysterious I can't stop myself from crying.
Despite the awful hardships and abuses he experienced in Limerick, he still feels something for it and for his family. When his mother dies much later in the United States, he brings her ashes back to Ireland--at the same time he goes to bury his estranged, alcoholic father. McCourt's feelings about Ireland are complex, but Ireland is a place that moves him.
These three details begin to paint a picture of a young man who came from nothing but manages to succeed in one of the countries he loves.