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United States die as aresult of alcohol usage. As a whole America contains roughly 14 million

people diagnosed with alcoholism, which means about 1 in every thirteen

adults, the people leading our nation, abuse alcohol privileges. This

disease is slowly taking over, poisoning one home after another. In fact,

one out of every four American households is touched by an alcohol related

problem every year. Victims, and there loved ones, know hands on what it’s

like to deal with a problem of this severity. Its noted that majority of

recovering alcoholics have stated that with out family support and

tolerance it would have been a nearly impossible battle to recovery. Love

and affection is considerably the most important treatment for fighting

this disease. It’s often an eye opening experience that enables a person,

as well as their family, to look at their life and decide for themselves

what is important and what can be left behind. Sadly if alcohol can’t be

left behind then chances are the rest of their life will be. Billy Lynch

an alcoholic, in the novel Charming Billy, by Alice McDermott, can in ways

be considered an exception to this widely accepted theory. The name Billy,

derived from William, means protector, and that’s exactly what Billy Lynch

was, a protector of love, laughter, and life. Ironically this savior of

pursuing happiness and living life to the fullest was not around long

enough to spread his outlook of his morals much beyond his family and

friends. As strong of a man as he was, he allowed alcoholism to out fight

him and Billy was slowly defeated by the disease that eventually drove him

to death. Although Billy is physically gone he was the type of person that

will never be forgotten and a piece of him remains with all his loved ones,

especially his wife Maeve.

The story of Billy Lynch is told after his death. The novel begins in

a small bar-and-grill with Maeve calmly sitting by herself staring out the

desolate window. Tears are slowly rolling down her cheeks as she patiently

waits for everyone who knew and cared about Billy to continuously stream

in. One after another people were giving their deepest sympathies to Maeve

then took their seats. Billy was the type of person who everyone had a

story about, even if they had only met him once or twice.He was the

“friend of a friend” that was always being talked about.

Funerals are often associated with an overwhelming amount of sorrow

and despair that blankets over the whole day.When initially thought

about, the celebration of a death seems disrespectful, when in reality it

is an emotional way of letting go, while trying to hold on.At Billy’s

funeral, on that day, with out a doubt there was a thick layer of remorse

coating the air, however at the same time the people who will miss him the

most could not help but smile when looking back on some of the memories

they have with Billy.

Throughout the novel a number of Billy’s friends and family look back

on memories and events that took place in Billy’s life, sharing all their

stories. All the clips of his life, that were being talked about, mold

together to give the reader a picture of what he looked like, acted like,

and most importantly what he did during his life to create such a strong

personality and, on the down side, the addiction to alcohol.

At this gathering to honor Billy a secret was let loose that helped to

shape the whole novel. When Billy was a young man he fell completely in

love with a beautiful Irish girl named Eva. He met this girl in Ireland

and loved everything about her. When returning to the states he promised

that he would save up enough money to send back for her.They wrote back

and forth until finally Billy sent the only money he had over to Eva so she

could come be his wife.For a while he hadn’t gotten any letters

responding to the money sent over. He began to worry and question if Eva

got it or not. One day Billy’s friend Dennis was talking to Mary, Eva’s

sister, and got the breath taking news that changed Billy forever.

In reality Eva turned on Billy into a heartless woman, she stole his

money to start a small business and married a hometown boy named Tom,

without even telling Billy. She just let him sit in the dark wondering

about her every minute of every day. Dennis worried about ruining Billy

with the news and decided to tell him that she was dead, because to them,

that’s exactly what she was. He told him that pneumonia had swept over the

country, which was true, and Eva was a victim of it. He said she was sick

for a number of weeks and that’s why he hadn’t heard from her, until

finally the disease took her life away.

“Eva never died. It was a lie. Just between the two of

us. Eva lived.”


At first Billy didn’t know how to react; the whole thing took him by

surprise. Initially he didn’t even respond, he went blank and could barely

even talk. The thought of loosing the person who meant more to him than

life itself was mind boggling. There are two paths that can be taken after

a life changing event such as this one.The first way is to give up;

convincing yourself that life cannot go on.The second way is to have

faith and believe that everything happens for a reason, and slowly move on

with your life. Billy had more faith than most people combined, however

while moving on he comforted himself with alcohol, which lead him down the

wrong path.

A few years later Billy found out about the lie, however by that time

he had met and married Maeve, a very simple but pleasant woman, which was

just what he needed. Nonetheless he hadn’t forgotten Eva; she was his

first and only true love. In fact, he made an oath against alcohol and

went all the way to Ireland to pledge for it. While he was over there he

met and had lunch with Eva, just as old friends would if they hadn’t seen

each other in a while. It finally hit Billy that she had really left him,

and no longer could convince himself that she was dead, for she was right

there with him in flesh and blood.

No one else, besides the few that told him, knew the truth about Eva.

His friends and family had no reason not to believe the romantic story

about her becoming deathly ill.It was a lie that was created for

everyone’s own good. It never hurt anyone, it only helped. A lie can be

considered a defense mechanism; a way of hiding parts of the past that hurt

too much to even think about, it was Billy’s way of dealing with the

particular event and weakening the scar it left him with.He never truly

let go of Eva, however was always very loyal to Maeve, and loved her as


Alice McDermott, the author of Charming Billy, set out writing this

novel as a collection of thoughts, similar to a group of women talking

together, she once stated. Her goal was to accomplish a book based on

faith and in the end that’s what she did,

“I think ‘Charming Bill’y ultimately is a novel about

faith, and what we believe in, and above all, what we choose to

believe in. And I think that Billy in this community is someone

who the people around him have to believe a romantic tale about.

They love him so dearly and are so fond of him and have –

they’ve watched him destroy himself – and it’s not enough for

them to say, well, Billy’s had an unfortunate life. They need to

make something more of his life. And they do that by telling

stories about him. They keep the faith that his life was

valuable, even though on the surface it seems only pathetic.”


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