Chris Gager's Reviews > After This

After This by Alice McDermott
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's review
Feb 08, 2012

really liked it
Read in February, 2012

Coming up this weekend after I finish "On Chesil Beach". I just read her latest New Yorker story: "Someone" and decided to investigate further. 3(!) Pulitzer nominations...
Day one... Another NY Catholic family saga(like "We Were the Mulvaneys") but this time the family is firmly Long Island Irish Catholic in the 50's and 60's(so far) and less and affluent and successful than their fictional upstate neighbors in Oates' book. The Mulvaneys were a bunch of "stars"(admittedly in a small galaxy). Also, AM is a better writer. Easier and more enjoyable to read. It was very interesting to read about this family living at the same time as mine(I'm about 3 years older than the two boys) and living a life that's both similar and different. The mid-60's(Vietnam, drugs & sex) are just getting going.
Day two... no reading in this book. Super Bowl Sunday and my Pats go down to defeat after playing rather poorly I'd say. I went to see "The Descendents" and missed the first 3/4 of the game. The last quarter took about an hour to play - ridiculous. Even without a healthy and 100% Gronk they should've won. I'll probably finish the book tonight.
Day three and done... I stayed up past midnight to finish this excellent book. Not that there was anything suspenseful to be resolved. I just wanted to finish. Not an easy book to read at "speed". I found myself doing a lot of re-reading when I did that. The book reminds me of "Housekeeping" in its emotional/spiritual tone. Quite moving at times. Funny too. AM takes us on a time-journey through the life of a very ordinary family from the late 40's to the early 70's. there's even a brief reference to what could be the 80's or beyond. There's not a lot of stuff going on. Just life. Remember Dr. Zorba at the beginning of "Ben Casey"? Man-Woman-Birth(Life)-Death-Infinity... No real story gets told. Instead the author gives us an impressionistic look at the Keanes and some of the people in their lives at various times. Each episode is a gem and minor characters have their moments "in the sun". A beautiful apprentice bar fly in upstate New York, a piano prodigy at the end, a dorky American college girl drunk and in love in England. Objects take on psychic weight: The Pieta at the World's fair, a strange car slowly moving down the residential street, a bottle of Drambuie. AM appears as the character Annie, a catholic school girl who reads Faulkner for fun. A few notes: The unnamed literature that Annie and Susan refer to in their "business trip" to Manhattan are "Revolutionary Road" and "Richard Corey". Miniver Cheevy? Grace Poole? The title? We'll be right back after this...", or "after this I'm gonna...". Not quite as special as "Housekeeping" but 4 stars all the way. "She recalled Annie on that terrible morning, in the same hallway, she recalled seeing through the glass door of her own office the great shadow of Sister Maureen Crosby rising from her seat behind the reception desk, catching the two weeping girls in her arms."
And one more thing... I looked up the ? items from above. Grace Poole -a character in "Jane Eyre" and "Miniver Cheevy" - another E.A.Robinson poem.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Lily "Grace Poole - Grace Poole is Bertha Mason’s keeper at Thornfield, whose drunken carelessness frequently allows Bertha to escape. When Jane first arrives at Thornfield, Mrs. Fairfax attributes to Grace all evidence of Bertha’s misdeeds. "
At times I wondered if "Bertha Mason" wouldn't have been a more apt allusion than "Grace Poole."

Interesting author to contrast with Oates and McEwan. While I like her storytelling, I'm afraid I fault many of McDermott's sentence constructions.

Chris Gager I've read "Jane Eyre" since I wrote this review. Another great book...

message 3: by Lily (last edited Jul 14, 2013 11:23AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lily Chris wrote: "I've read "Jane Eyre" since I wrote this review. Another great book..."

Even though I've read Jane Eyre at least a couple of times, I had to look to make sure which character "Grace Poole" was. You made the process easier and quicker, Chris.

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