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Paperback After This Book

ISBN: 0385334699

ISBN13: 9780385334693

After This

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Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

On a wild, windy April day in Manhattan, when Mary first meets John Keane, she cannot know what lies ahead of her. A marriage, a fleeting season of romance, and the birth of four children will bring John and Mary to rest in the safe embrace of a traditional Catholic life in the suburbs. But neither Mary nor John, distracted by memories and longings, can feel the wind that is buffeting their children, leading them in directions beyond their parents'...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Yet Another Fine Novel

This is another great novel by Alice McDermott -- she is one of those writers for whom my central wish (and given the quality of her work, an irrational and unreasonable wish)is that we did not have to wait years for their next work. Yet this novel appears to me to mark a major development in McDermott's work. For it is here that she has introduced a trope, the wind, as a unifying metaphor, not just to emphasize the notion of moments of major change -- the meeting of the husband and wife, the blackout, and even the son's departure to Vietnam is marked by the wind swirling in the alley by the school, but also to tie these events, and these lives together. The wind is in fact with us from the very first sentence: "Leaving the church, she felt the wind rise, felt the pinprick of pebble and grit against her stockings and her cheeks-the slivered shards of mad sunlight in her eyes." I cannot recall such an extensive use such devices in her earlier work. This device is introduced with the utmost skill, artfully unobtrusively. Thus, the reader not only gets the benefit of McDermott's unsentimental yet somehow highly sympathetic descriptions of these "average" lives, a hallmark of her work, but also her development in storytelling. Moreover, here she uses Joyce-like language (aliteration in sentences describing snow - a tribute to Joyce's The Dead?) of the sort that I don't recall from her previous work. A wonderful novel.

Moving and Beautiful

You didn't have to grow up Catholic, like the families in this book, to identify entirely with its story. You just had to be there. For those of us whose childhoods intersected with the "Sixties" as popular culture understands it, the shock of being raised one way (e.g., wearing white gloves to a department store; dressing up to go to the movies) with a deep and constant value system--and having that system completely ridiculed, turned upside down and labeled obsolete in just a few tumultuous years, was all too real, and is memorably described in this book. Here, we meet the Keanes, good, decent middle-class devout Catholics who raise their four children around their church, Catholic school, and all the social values that come with that lifestyle. There is no divorce. There is no abortion (at least as far as these people understand life). Vietnam is a faraway and uninteresting place. And then, seemingly overnight, everything changes. We see the four Keane children, two boys and two girls, encounter every cliche of the Sixties, except that if you lived it, it was all too real: unwanted pregnancy, unwanted draft into the horrible Vietnam War, sex without love or any commitment, drugs -- the litany is endless. Even the Keanes' beloved church is "modernized" to the point that it no longer seems a church. Some of the characters survive, able to accept the changes and act accordingly. Others do not. All makes perfect sense. I have ordered this book for a dear friend who DID grow up Catholic, but that is not a prerequisite to experiencing this wonderful, special book. Highly recommended.

Great American Literature ...

This book has American literary classic stamped all over it. Alice McDermott takes a period in time, after World War II through the Viet Nam era, and focuses on an Irish Catholic family. It is within this context that she, ever so gently, takes us back to the days of not really so long ago. While those of Irish Catholic background will immediately relate to this book, this is truly a novel for everyone to savor.

After Reading This

I thought this was a marvelous little gem. It's a novel that's formed by the interconnection of several stories about the Keane family (and isn't that really what life is all about...interconnected stories?) This is an "ordinary" family: one son goes to Vietnam, another goes off to college, a daughter travels to London for her education, another stays home (no spoiler). But it's in their very ordinariness that this book shines. I get tired of reviews from readers who can't enjoy a book without an adventure-a-minute plot. There IS a place for books like that, but this is not one of them. It's a character-based book, and the characters come alive. I feel as if I know every single one of them; as if they could have been my next door neighbors or the family down the block. Some say Alice McDermott is a "Catholic writer." I was never brainwashed with religion like some; I see her as a universal writer. The religion here is a backdrop to the lives of the characters; something that gives their life structure and community, but not necessarily meaning. They have to find the meaning within themselves. The writing is so powerful -- and authentic -- that I re-read passages just to review the author's construction of sentences. I will not easily forget the family members that populated this book.

A touching novel about finding the extraordinary in the everyday

Alice McDermott, whose previous novels include the National Book Award-winning CHARMING BILLY and the quietly luminous AT WEDDINGS AND WAKES, has become known for finding the exceptional, the extraordinary, in the daily events that make up family life. A superior literary craftsperson, McDermott wastes nothing in her spare, evocative prose, instead wresting emotion out of human interactions and perfectly rendered images. AFTER THIS, McDermott's domestic epic outlining several decades in the lives of a suburban Irish Catholic family, will continue to cement her reputation as one of the most accomplished American authors writing today. AFTER THIS begins shortly after the close of World War II, as 30-year-old Mary Rose endures a lonely life, her days centered on her work in the secretarial pool and the care she takes for her father and brother. Every noon hour, Mary heads to the nearby Catholic church where, now that the war is over, she prays for her own life: "She did not want a life drained of kindness and compassion and humor.... She had prayed for if not a better life than this daily, lonely one, a better way to be content with it." Before we're 10 pages into the book, Mary meets handsome John Keane at the lunch counter, and the rest of the novel centers on the ways this utterly average couple finds contentment in the dramas that play out over the several decades of their married life. Mary and John have four children, each of whom takes center stage for at least a moment in the novel's shifting third-person narration. The result is a portrait of a family's change over time, an impressionistic portrait at best, since although the overall thrust of the narrative is chronological, McDermott slyly shows us glimpses of the future --- or the past --- through asides to the reader that hint at her characters' fates. Events from the past (John's chance meeting during WWII with a doomed young man named Jacob) parallel those in the present (John and Mary's own frail, sensitive son, named for that dead soldier, heads off to fight his own battles in Vietnam). Likewise, events in the present (the family huddled together in the basement to wait out a hurricane) gain importance when placed in the context of the past (children huddled in corners of bomb shelters during the Blitz in London). Advice given, offhand comments, even the music of an unseen pianist all echo through the pages of the novel and weave together events in a way that conveys the profoundness and mysteries inherent in every family's story. John and Mary Keane's youngest daughter, Clare, is born in the wake of that hurricane and will eventually shape the family's story in her own way. Their neighbor, who ends up delivering the baby, thinks to himself, "there were children growing in nearly every house in this neighborhood, in every borough and every town. Thousands more were being born today, being conceived --- women with their knees raised all over the world. Mrs. Keane herself already h
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