*** 1/2 After This By Alice McDermott
A family affair.
There is nothing particularly notable about the Keane family. Mary and John met when she was about to resign herself to spinsterhood and he'd become accustomed to limping through life on a leg injured in World War II. The four Keane children are mostly happy and mostly healthy, but the events of the latter half of the 20th century begin to fray this tightly woven Long Island family. Jacob drops out of school, only to get drafted for Vietnam; Anne follows a lover to London; Michael is adrift in drink and narcotics; and Clare gets pregnant. Without ever drawing a strict narrative line, the series of vignettes that make up After This coalesce to spur aching emotional questions about the ties that bind. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 279 pages. $24. ISBN: 0374168091
Rocky Mountain News **** 1/2
"McDermott has condensed a significant swath of the 20th-century American experience into a slim, beautiful book, dispatching with efficient elegance a subject that might have moved other writers to verbosity.... McDermott is a magician, able to conjure a story that feels epic out of the materials of ordinary lives." JENNY SHANK
Cleveland Plain Dealer ****
"We as readers become all these people: the neighbor who helps Mary deliver a baby, the nun who teaches one of the daughters about the horrors of abortion, the priest, the professor, the best friend." SARAH WILLIS
Minneapolis Star-Tribune ****
"McDermott's style techniques serve her well, as does her use of meticulous period detail, much of it humorous. Because she skillfully captures a slice of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, her novel will resonate with baby boomers, particularly those who attended Catholic schools." KATHERINE BAILEY
"There is an incantatory interiority to her prose, capable of capturing subtle emotional nuances and flickers of moral wavering." HELLER MCALPIN
Christian Science Monitor *** 1/2
"The book is a series of interlocking vignettes that skip years and change points of view as it traces the history of John and Mary Keane and their children from the late 1940s through the 1970s.... Quiet is the operative word for McDermott's storytelling here; she underplays even death to haunting effect." YVONNE ZIPP
Los Angeles Times...