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Life After Life
Cover of Life After Life
Life After Life
A Novel
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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. 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. She has conjured an entire community that reminds us that grace and magic can—and do—appear when we least expect it.

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. 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. She has conjured an entire community that reminds us that grace and magic can—and do—appear when we least expect it.

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About 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. Visit her online at jillmccorkle.com.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 14, 2013
    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.

  • Kirkus

    January 1, 2013
    Assisted living residents and a hospice worker confront the inevitable with grit and humor. A potentially cliched 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.

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2013

    It takes a skillful author to write a book about death that leaves the reader feeling uplifted, and McCorkle (Going Away Shoes) is such an author. Her multilayered new novel centers on the colorful residents of Pine Haven Retirement Center in small-town North Carolina. We learn why each resident is at the center, and about their lives and families, but two women who work at the facility are also central to the story. Most intriguing is the intersection between life and death created by entries from the journal of a hospice worker named Joanna. Joanna's recollections of a patient's death are immediately followed by the dying person's last thoughts and memories. Characters are introduced then exit, reinforcing the theme of disappearing, of moving in and out of life and relationships, with some characters quickly letting go and others holding on to the past. VERDICT This excellent novel, unusual in its shifting construction, will be appreciated by readers drawn to stories about older characters, or death and dying, but there is much more to it. Fans of Southern writers such as Lee Smith and Kaye Gibbons should definitely give it a try.--Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA

    Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Novel
Jill McCorkle
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