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The Ninth Hour

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  15,130 ratings  ·  2,071 reviews
A magnificent new novel from one of America’s finest writers—a powerfully affecting story spanning the twentieth century of a widow and her daughter and the nuns who serve their Irish-American community in Brooklyn.

On a dim winter afternoon, a young Irish immigrant opens the gas taps in his Brooklyn tenement. He is determined to prove—to the subway bosses who have recently
Hardcover, 247 pages
Published September 19th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Margaret Sofio It's a fantastic book. Yes, McDermott writes about the immigrant Irish in NYC, struggling, helped by nuns as poor as the rest of the community, but it…moreIt's a fantastic book. Yes, McDermott writes about the immigrant Irish in NYC, struggling, helped by nuns as poor as the rest of the community, but it is wonderfully nuanced, both in the characters and the situation. Great scene as the daughter heads to Chicago to join the nuns--a trip through the underworld. But there is joy; there is progress; there is love and compassion.(less)

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Angela M
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Alice McDermott is one of my very favorite writers. I found in her new novel the same subtle, quiet storytelling with simple prose, descriptions that defy you to stay in your present place and send you to this place, this Catholic, Irish-American Brooklyn in the early twentieth century. She invites you through her ordinary characters living their everyday lives in spite of their flaws, to see the extraordinary things of our humanity. This is a story of a family beginning with life before Sally i ...more
But it was at this hour, when the sun was a humming gold at the horizon, or a pale peach, or even just, as now, a gray pearl, that she felt the breath of God warm on her neck. It was at this hour that the whole city smelled to her like the inside of a cathedral - damp stone and cold water and candle wax - and the sound of her steps on the sidewalk and over the five cross streets made her think of a priest approaching the alter in shined shoes. Or of a bridegroom, perhaps, out of one of the roman ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I absolutely adore this author, and have been waiting for a few years for this her next offering. Her novels aren't suspense filled, no thrill a minute, no car chases or knife wielding psychopaths, just slices of life in all it's messy permutations. Early twentieth century, Brooklyn, a neighborhood of Irish Catholics during a time period when most medical care was performed by nuns, in this case the Little Nursing Sisters of the sick poor, the only recourse for those who cannot afford a physicia ...more
"Fairness demanded that grief should find succor, that wounds should heal, insult and confusion find recompense and certainty, that every living person God had made should not, willy-nilly, be forever unmade."

And when the suffocating weight of despair visits upon the souls of the hopeless, choices will fit into the maze of forever. Jim sends his young wife, Annie, out the door of their delapitated Brooklyn tenement in order to do the weekly shopping. The turn of that knob clicks off something wi
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I went into this blind - having only skimmed over some reviews but trusting my GR friend's high ratings.
So, little did I know that as dark as this starts off and moments during, McDermott's prose rubs off like a balm for both the spirit and the soul.

It starts with a suicide in the early 20th century. The darkness just before death and that which immediately follows. Nuns are brought in to help those grieving; those dying.

This is mostly Sally's story -the path her life took after her father commi
Oct 22, 2017 rated it liked it
The Ninth Hour a story by Alice McDermott is well written vivid and an interesting insight into 20th Century Irish Catholic Brooklyn and while I found the book well written prose wise I did find the novel quite disjointed and at times difficult to follow.

The Story starts out quite strong with Jim a young Irish immigrant recently fired from his job as a subway motorman takes his own life in the Brooklyn apartment he rents with his pregnant wife Annie. Sister St. Saviour from the Little Nursing S
Elyse  Walters
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition this was kinda A M A Z I N G........
Beginning with a grim suicide - this book grabs our heart and won’t let go.
The Jewish religion shared something in common with the Irish Catholic in the early 1900’s — there was a stigma - a dire sin - against a proper burial for those who committed suicide. I know things have changed since then in the Jewish religion- but I don’t know about the Irish Catholic today.
However — in this story at the start of the 20th century— when Annie’s husband take
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 from me for this book written by an author whose work I have never read before. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the writing!
This book starts off with the suicide of a man who leaves behind a pregnant wife. The story is a coming of age story of the girl born to this woman, much of their time spent inside an Irish Catholic convent in Brooklyn, with The Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor. The Ninth Hour is the afternoon hour of prayer.
Illness, loss, faith and sacrifice are running theme

“It was a dark and dank day altogether: cold spitting rain in the morning and a low, steel gray sky the rest of the afternoon.”

Two weeks ago, Jim was working as a trainman for the BRT. But he felt he should be the master of his own time, and so he took that liberty, so convinced was he of his inalienable right to refuse the constraints of time.

“Sometimes just the pleasure of being an hour or two late was enough to remind him that he, at least, was his own man, that the hours of his life—
My Best Novel of 2017, and a New All-Time Favorite
In the middle of something at work, I will not have time to put into writing a full review until the weekend. Yet, I'm bursting to rave about this novel and recommend it as a must.

The book is named for the hour of afternoon prayer, and God is a prevalent presence. Yet, this parochial novel's reach is as universal as Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, and Joyce's Dubliners. I'd rank it with these books in terms of how it evoked a time and pla
Diane Barnes
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Oh, how I loved these nuns! The Little Sisters of the Sick Poor, spending their lives nursing and providing for the needs of poor people in turn of the century Brooklyn, NY. It wasn't easy, but they did what they could, given the bounds of the Catholic Church, the Priests, lack of money, and human nature. Of course, that meant that sometimes rules had to be broken.
Sister St. Savior has no problem with this. She even has a ledger where she keeps a list of the sins she committed in her quest to gi
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Christine by: Libby App, Angela and Diane reviews
I have 8 books on hold on the Libby App through my local library. The Libby App is a great thing as you can ask for privileges to other libraries in addition to your own. I recently added the main library in Minneapolis, which has been a treasure trove for me. While waiting for my next book in the queue to come through, I idly scanned the historical fiction section to see what was available immediately. I came upon this intriguing title by an author I did not know. I, of course, went to my Goodr ...more
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Ninth Hour
Alice McDermott

A dark, thought-provoking and moving story about an Irish immigrant family and a community of nuns who thanklessly care for the sick and the poor.

Late one winter afternoon, Jim ushered his wife out the door to do some shopping. After she leaves, this Irish immigrant subway worker blocked the door, covered the windows and opened up the gas taps in their Brooklyn tenement. His suicide would forever alter the lives of his wife, Annie, and his unborn da
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Alice McDermott captures it exactly.

Been there, done that. St. Thomas More parish 1948-1966 predominately Irish-Americans. Sisters of Mercy in Chicago where Sally was heading. Novitiate / Mother McAuley H.S. This is the first novel I've ever read that even begins to capture my Chicago neighborhood- it's tone especially. Although most women had TWICE as many kids as Mrs. Tierney and nearly every family had a elder stuck up in the loft spaces.

All of the characters were finely drawn to a
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing

During this cynical point of time when the words “sacrifice” and “service” have become quaint and puzzling, The Ninth Hour seems a bit of an anachronism or at the very least, historical curiosity.

Alice McDermott, however, in exquisite prose, captures the world of early twentieth century Catholic Brooklyn, with its lens on the Little Sisters of the Sick Poor, their laundress Annie and her daughter Sally.

The beauty of the novel is that it doesn’t judge, providing the nuns with humanity without ele
Jossie Solheim
I wanted to love this book, but I just couldn't get into it. It rambled on quite a bit, without the story seeming to really get anywhere and felt repetitive at times. It really wasn't for me. I did however like the small glimmers of story that occasionally found its way through, but sadly it was overshadowed by the writing style, which didn't flow and made reading it hard work. The layout of the story and the way it jumped around only further confused things and after reading just over a quarter ...more
Colleen Fauchelle
I know I have other books I should have been reading. But this one caught my eye at work last thursday, so I brought it and have been reading it when I have had time.
I loved this book. I have given a few books 5 stars this year but I would have to say this is my favorite. You see I went to a catholic primary school and when I was ill the Nuns would take me to their home and take care of me. That is what this story is about, the Nuns taking care of the people in the Brooklyn area and in reading i
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A literally Ballad, a dense and heavily narrated story full of passion,melancholia and grief..
It's a cry after life, for the living and sufferings of the creature under an grey, opal and bleak sky!!!
It's the struggle of the losers and defeated in search for meaning, truth and light!!
Alice McDermont has given a voice to the mute and neglected, stricken by poverty and disdain !!

But also the story of faith and resilience..
The story of self-sacrifice and love..
And also a weak up cry magnifying the v
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is my first Alice McDermott. I struggled through the bleakness and the seeming directionless over the large portion of the book, but pressed on only to see the ending. After all it was a short enough book, and it couldn’t have been spotted as a potential 2018 Pulitzer winner only for being an awfully miserable book. Besides I was afraid of missing something profound; my understanding in Irish Catholic dynamics is perfunctory at best.
It wasn’t as gripping to me as The Heart’s Invisible Furi
Peter Boyle
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Long, long ago in the carefree 1990s, I was taught French by a fearsome nun. She was prone to mood swings and it was important to know how to handle them. If she was cheerful, she would regale us with hilarious stories and a well-timed question from one of my classmates might be lucky enough to delay the whole lesson. However, if she was in a foul humour, nobody was safe from her barbed tongue, and all we could do was count down the interminable minutes until the bell rang. What I mean to say is ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was my first experience of McDermott, and probably my last. It isn't that the book is poorly written necessarily, although I thought it rather oddly structured and repetitive in places - I just found it bleak and dispiriting, when it wasn't downright dull and boring. And McDermott not only concentrates on the more depressing aspects of the human condition, she also has a weird fixation for bodily excretions - people are forever breaking wind, and there are myriad descriptions of other bathr ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
The title is taken from the nones in the Catholic liturgy, the hour of Christ’s death on the cross. As McDermott has explained in interviews on the book's conception

There’s a wonderful series of poems on the hours by W.H. Auden in which 3 p.m. is the moment of stillness. Jesus has just died, and we don’t know what will happen next. Is he really dead, or is he going to come back? It’s the moment in which both believers and unbelievers are holding their breaths.

Alice McDermott’s novels have te
Eric Anderson
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For a period in my early 20s I worked as a caregiver to mentally handicapped adults who lived in halfway houses. These extraordinary women and men all required a varying amount of care, supervision and companionship. Often the work felt rewarding and enlivening, but sometimes it could be overwhelmingly upsetting and draining. In those dark moments it felt futile and insignificant. I mention this only because something I think Alice McDermott captures so powerfully in this novel is the sense of a ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was simply exquisite! It resonated with me from the opening page. She writes so beautifully, capturing the era, the sense of place. The reader quickly gets a feel for the ethic neighborhood of Catholic Brooklyn in the early 1900s. Opening with the suicide of a young father to be, the novel unfolds at a deliberate pace. The Little Sisters of the Nursing Poor hasten on the scene, assisting and supporting his pregnant young widow, and the highly original plot is launched. There’s a bit of back ...more
3.5 stars. This author usually delivers a worthwhile read, I have found. I enjoyed this one too. From the beginning it reminded me of a Brooklyn-based Call the Midwife show, with Irish immigrant nuns taking care of the sick and poor throughout their community. They take in a young pregnant widow after her husband commits suicide, and the story is basically about the daughter Sally, as told by Sally's son in flashbacks. The jumping around in time was rather confusing to keep up with. But the char ...more
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
The Ninth Hour starts off with a suicide and continues with the aftermath: a young pregnant widow, Annie, assisted by nuns in the area. Her daughter is born, Sally, and the story is primarily focused on her. The story also involves Annie, the nuns, the neighbors and local community.

I don’t know much about the traditional Catholic religion, but I did not find the religious elements to be overwhelming, even with the story’s heavy involvement of nuns. I know nursing was a huge part of their practi
Mary Lins
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: complete
Here’s the gist of my review of “The Ninth Hour”, by Alice McDermott: I loved it and I didn’t want it to end. Keep reading and I’ll tell you why.

Beginning with a suicide on a dismal winter’s day in Catholic/immigrant Brooklyn near the beginning of the 20th century, McDermott completely and vividly captures the time, place and denizens of this moment in the history of New York, the US, and of the Catholic Church.
The novel is narrated by a collective “we”; the children and grandchildren of the mai
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-authors
What an absolute marvel of a story this is. A miracle of writing and storytelling. Alice McDermott has been one of my favorite authors since I read her first book decades ago. She is one of the few authors who never, ever disappoints.
The Ninth Hour is I feel one of her strongest novels both for the richness of her many characters - especially those nuns!
But it is the way in which she builds the story, builds her themes, builds her characters with many delicate layers like creating a cloisonné
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star-books
The Ninth Hour: A Novel is a tender story that explored the unspoken and complex language of saintly love espoused by the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor in Irish Brooklyn who went about serving the sick and needy at the turn of the twentieth century. It takes an honest look at mercy, and offers, to my mind, a startling revelation of the unexpected and even unholy ways in which it is expressed.

The novel follows the life of Sally, a fatherless child who is raised in a convent by a group
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
What does it mean to love, for love to stand before suffering one’s own and another’s suffering, to stand even when love can not end the suffering, to love without counting the cost even though one knows what must be paid, to sacrifice whatever is asked? This is the question I found at the heart of this novel of a young widow raising her daughter under the care of a local convent of nursing sisters. I liked this story with its complicated characters, religious themes, layers of glimpsed question ...more
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Alice McDermott (born June 27, 1953) is Johns Hopkins University's Writer-in-Residence. Born in Brooklyn, New York, McDermott attended St. Boniface School in Elmont, Long Island, NY [1967], Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead NY [1971], the State University of New York at Oswego, receiving her BA in 1975, and later received her MA from the University of New Hampshire in 1978.

She has taught at the UC

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