Award-winning author Jill McCorkle takes us on a splendid journey through time and memory in this, her tenth work of fiction. "Life After Life "is filled with a sense of wonder at our capacity for self-discovery at any age. And the residents, staff, and neighbors of the Pine Haven retirement center (from twelve-year-old Abby to eighty-five-year-old Sadie) share some of life s most profound discoveries and are some of the most true-to-life characters that you are ever likely to meet in fiction.Read more...
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Award-winning author Jill McCorkle takes us on a splendid journey through time and memory in this, her tenth work of fiction. "Life After Life "is filled with a sense of wonder at our capacity for self-discovery at any age. And the residents, staff, and neighbors of the Pine Haven retirement center (from twelve-year-old Abby to eighty-five-year-old Sadie) share some of life s most profound discoveries and are some of the most true-to-life characters that you are ever likely to meet in fiction. Delivered with her trademark wit, Jill McCorkle s constantly surprising novel illuminates the possibilities of second chances, hope, and rediscovering life right up to the very end. She has conjured an entire community that reminds us that grace and magic can and do appear when we least expect it."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-01-14
- Reviewer: Staff
At the edge of death, one key memory will take hold: a meal in a beautiful restaurant, a humiliating sexual rejection, or a sky full of fireworks and stars. In McCorkle’s sixth novel (after Going Away Shoes), she returns to her native North Carolina for an unsparing look at the regrets that haunt the end of a life. McCorkle’s saddest and most unlovable characters are her most compelling; single mother C.J. is desperate not to repeat her mother’s cycle of prostitution and suicide but knows she faces long odds. Stanley enters a nursing home and feigns dementia to keep his son Ned at a distance, reflecting, “How awful to come to the end and see that all you’ve been is another goddamned link in the chain that keeps out the happiness.” Mired in a hopeless marriage, Ben tries to reach out to his daughter Abby with magic tricks. Vanishing girls are a recurring theme; some are lost but a few, through luck and kindness, have their lives and loves restored. Hospice volunteer Joanna, Ben’s childhood friend and former assistant, is the point of connection among many storylines; she comforts the dying and records what she knows of their lives, and, like McCorkle, she’s more interested in capturing moments that ring true than in providing closure. In the end it’s not at all clear that families or childhood loves will reconcile and have happy endings, which is a lot like life. Agent: Liz Darhansoff, Darhansoff & Verrill. (Mar.)
A retirement community bound by time's passage
Southern novelist Jill McCorkle’s latest character-driven and emotionally vivid novel is set—as is most of her previous work—in Fulton, North Carolina, a small town in which the reader quickly becomes immersed. Her story centers on the residents and staff of Pine Haven Retirement Center—their stories adroitly interwoven by McCorkle, layer by layer, as she gradually illuminates how their pasts intersected far before they came together in the present.
Joanna is a hospice volunteer who keeps a notebook with an entry for each person she visits when they die—their favorite things, their memories, their last words. One of her first journal entries was about her own father’s death, including the fact that he never told her he loved her. Joanna’s somewhat mysterious past includes numerous marriages, somewhere between three and seven, depending on who’s doing the gossiping. Her best friend is C.J.—a tattooed and pierced single mom half Joanna’s age whose life so far has been one long struggle. She now helps groom the hair and nails of Pine Haven’s grateful residents. Sadie, 85 and wheelchair-bound, is a former third-grade teacher who sees an 8-year-old inside everyone she meets. Her best friend and loyal companion is Abby, the 13-year-old who lives next door and visits Pine Haven daily to escape her constantly bickering parents.
McCorkle interweaves the stories of these unlikely friendships to offer penetrating insight into the different routes aging might lead us along, and how we think about death—for ourselves, as well as the ones we love. But her signature humor shines through, lightening the mood just when it’s most needed. This is a beautifully written, perceptive and poignant novel that will linger in readers’ minds for a long while.