Born in Brooklyn, Frank McCourt moved to Ireland at age four with his parents and brothers. As tough as life had been for the McCourt's in New York, it doesn't compare to the hardships they encounter in their native country.
Penniless and destitute, the McCourts finally made it to Limerick where Frank was introduced to a collection of relatives, some as miserly as it is possible to imagine; some as generous.
Frank's father, Malachy, rarely has a job and when he does, spends his wages in the pubs, leaving Frank's mother, Angela, to beg from churches and charity organizations.
Despite the tragedy of his drinking, Frank's dad is as charming as a "shiftless loquacious alcoholic" could be, and he shares a special bond with Frank, revealed through moments of heartrending tenderness.
Near death from typhoid fever, Frank spends several months in quarantine in the hospital where he has steady meals, clean sheets, and best of all, books. It is here that he is first introduced to Shakespeare. "I don't know what it means and I don't care because it's Shakespeare and it's like having jewels in my mouth when I say the words."