Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes: A Memoir of Dublin in the 1950s

Written by Martha Long
Review by Susan Zabolotny

I’m sure Martha Long’s book was liberating for her to write, but it was tough for me to read. I wanted to review this book because I had the idea in my head that it would be like Angela’s Ashes, written with humor and sadness from a child’s point of view of abject poverty and deprivation. I was wrong.

This is the story of Martha, the oldest child of Sally, her stepfather, Jackser, and her younger siblings. The story begins in the 1950s when she is 4 and ends when she is 11 1/2. They are the poorest of the poor in Dublin, and page after page documents her abuse on every level by every adult she meets. She takes that abuse and finds a way to survive. Her determination to rise above it all is the one bright spot in this memoir. The writing in the local dialect made for slower reading but added much to the story. Ms. Long is a good writer, but the story could have been told in half as many pages. This book will make you hold your children closer and smile at them more often. I don’t have a recommendation either way.