Life After Life

Life After Life

3.8 43
by Jill McCorkle

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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)

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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.
There’s retired third-grade teacher Sadie Randolph, who has taught every child in town and believes we are all eight years old in our hearts; Stanley Stone, a prominent lawyer, now feigning dementia to escape life with his son; Marge Walker, the town’s self-appointed conveyor of social status, who keeps a scrapbook of every local murder and heinous crime; Rachel Silverman, recently widowed, whose decision to leave her Massachusetts home and settle at Pine Haven is a puzzle to everyone but her; C.J., the pierced and tattooed young mother who runs the beauty shop; and Joanna Lamb, the hospice volunteer who discovers that her path to a good life lies in helping people achieve good deaths. As each character ?begins to connect with another, the mysteries and consequences of their lives are revealed. What they eventually learn about themselves and one another will profoundly transform them all.
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. With Life After Life, she has conjured up an ?entire community that reminds all of us that grace and magic can—and do—appear when we least expect it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Kirkus Reviews
Assisted living residents and a hospice worker confront the inevitable with grit and humor. A potentially clichéd unifying device, the claustrophobic world of Pine Haven Retirement Facility (located next to a cemetery no less), is here put to innovative use. Passing the narrative baton are Pine Haven's residents and staff, friends and spouses, all confined, willingly or not, to McCorkle's familiar turf, Fulton, N.C. Joanna, a hospice worker rescued from suicide by a dog, finds fulfillment easing the passage of the dying. Abby, who inhabits the house next to Pine Haven, is an outcast preteen with a social-climbing mother, Kendra, and a feckless, unreliable father, Ben (a magician and Joanna's childhood friend). Abby, a daily visitor to Pine Haven, bereft after the disappearance of her dog, Dollbaby, finds a mentor in 85-year-old Sadie, a former third-grade teacher. Sadie discovers a kindred spirit in another teacher, Toby, Pine Haven's youngest retiree, who bemoans the sorry state of children's literature today. C.J., a pierced and tattooed single mom who does hair and nails at Pine Haven, has a much older married lover who is also the father of her son, Kurt. Rachel, a widowed Jewish lawyer from Boston, comes to Pine Haven to take up residence near her deceased paramour, Joe, who is buried, along with his wife, in the adjoining cemetery. Stanley, one of Fulton's most prominent citizens, is sliding into dementia, cajoling, goading and insulting Pine Haven's female majority, and reveling in bizarre obsessions: WWF stars and '60s-era lounge lizard LPs. But could his apparent Alzheimer's be a bid for independence instead of dependency? Seemingly unrelated and insignificant clues sowed throughout raise other questions as these lives coalesce. For example, is Dollbaby really missing? Who's leaving notes in a cemetery vase? Are both Kendra and C.J. placing their hopes in the same married man? Any residual predictability is dispelled by the jaw-dropping ending. McCorkle's masterful microcosm invokes profound sadness, harsh insight and guffaws, often on the same page.

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Product Details

Gale Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are saying about this

author of SERENA Ron Rash

“Like Flannery O’Connor, McCorkle’s genius is to give us both philosophical speculation and a riveting narrative filled with unforgettable characters. Great writing, poignancy, humor, wisdom—all are in abundance here. Jill McCorkle is one of the South’s greatest writers; she is also one of America’s.”

author of THE DAY I ATE WHATEVER I WANTED Elizabeth Berg

“I have always loved Jill McCorkle’s books: her characters are such characters! But in Life After Life, she has outdone herself . . . There’s talk about magic in this wonderful novel, and Jill McCorkle displays her own sleight of hand in delivering a powerful message in such a subtle and beautiful way.”

Meet the Author

Jill McCorkle is the author of nine previous books — four story collections and five novels — five of which have been selected as New York Times Notable Books. The recipient of the New England Book Award, the John Dos Passos Prize for Excellence in Literature, and the North Carolina Prize for Literature, she teaches writing at North Carolina State University and lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

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