Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: Life After Life by Jill McCorkle

Published by: Algonquin Books
Published on: March 26, 2013
Page Count: 352
Genre: fiction
My Reading Format: Advanced reading copy, Kindle edition from Netgalley
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle and Audible audio editions

My review:

Family secrets, disappearing acts, quirky old folks, memories, dark pasts, small town life, oral history, a beloved dog, those who are crazy and those who just pretend to be: ingredients needed to write a proper Southern novel. Jill McCorkle has included all these things and more in her first book in 17 years, Life After Life. In the spirit of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and the more recent A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty (Joshilyn Jackson), McCorkle beautifully and convincingly captures the voices of a myriad of characters - all ages, both genders and those who will do good and the world and those who won't.

Life After Life takes place mostly in a small North Carolina town. A young girl named Abby feels more comfortable spending time next door at Pine Haven, the town's retirement home, than she does with her mother or her peers at school. Nearly every character has trouble fitting in to the world around them because of something: too many marriages, too many tattoos, too many affairs or too many inappropriate comments. At Pine Haven, the residents remember their life before they moved in: what they did for a living, how they raised their children, how they fit in in Fulton, North Carolina. What they can't remember or don't want to, they make up. Resident Sadie has made a business out of putting two old photographs together to create a new reality and make a new memory for its owner.

Though some residents appear to have moved to Pine Haven simply to wait around for the end of their lives, quite a lot of living is to be done here. It's their life after life, and so are their stories preserved by hospice volunteer Joanna. For one resident named Rachel, her reasons for moving south from Massachusetts are kept quiet, and she keeps much of the life she led before to herself.   

There are secrets and sadness for the characters like Abby who live outside the retirement home as well. McCorkle brings the two worlds in Fulton, North Carolina, together in beautiful ways as the story comes to a surprising, shocking, saddening close. 

4.5 out of 5 stars

*If you think you'll like Life After Life, you'll probably also like Lunch at the Picadilly by Clyde Edgerton and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson. 

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