Reviews for After This
Booklist Reviews 2006 July #1
/*Starred Review*/ Word by word, metaphor by metaphor, McDermott writes the most exquisitely perceptive and atmospheric fiction published today. Heir to Woolf and Nabokov, she nets the totality of human consciousness in flawlessly rendered internalized fiction shaped by bemused delight in human nature and an abiding understanding of the rule of opposites: not only do opposites attract, the opposite of what you expect is bound to happen. In her sixth and most commanding novel, National Book Award-winning McDermott continues to till her verdant fictional home ground, Irish-Catholic family life on Long Island, in an extraordinarily refined through-the-decades family saga. The story begins as Mary steps out of church on a wildly windy day at the close of World War II and hurries into a diner, never imagining as she sits at the counter that she will soon marry the stranger beside her and with him raise two sons and two daughters. As their lives unfold, every beautifully rendered occurrence resonates deeply on both personal and social planes, from a tree toppled by a hurricane to quietly hilarious classroom scenes; a premature birth, an abortion, and a high-school pregnancy; a visit to the 1964 World's Fair to see Michelangelo's Pieta; a son serving in Vietnam; and a life-changing college year abroad. Encompassing and radiant, McDermott's breathtaking novel ends as it begins with a church scene and an unexpected marriage. Astutely attuned to the spiritual consequences of a rapidly metamorphosing world and the mysteries of desire, love, faith, family, and friendship, McDermott elucidates all that changes and all that endures with wondrous specificity and plentitude of heart. ((Reviewed July 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2006 July #2
A disarmingly understated tale of mid-to-late-20th-century Long Island Catholics from McDermott, who has come to own this particular literary turf after five penetrating novels and a National Book Award.Mary and John Keane meet in a Schrafft's restaurant shortly after WWII, fall in love, marry and raise four children. Conventional, middle-class Catholics whose lives center on their neighborhood parish and their family, they have their quirks. Mary half-despises her "best friend" Pauline, a lonely alcoholic who plays spinster aunt to the Keane children. John names their eldest son Jacob, after a young Jewish soldier with whom he served in the war and whose death continues to haunt him. John and Mary have their differences, but their marriage is solid, while their protective, worried love for their children is palpable and real. John's dismay that gentle, good-natured Jacob lacks the athletic or intellectual gifts of his younger brother Michael is particularly credible and well-rendered. Annie has a special connection with her mother, while youngest daughter Clare, whose emergency birth occurs at home with the help of a neighbor, forms a close bond with Pauline. As the children grow up through the '50s and '60s, their story ambles through disconnected, if charming, moments, like Mary's trip with Annie to view the Pietà at the World's Fair. When the kids reach adolescence, their lives give the narrative some forward momentum. Spunky, bookish Annie ends up in England with her British boyfriend. Jacob is killed in Vietnam. Michael becomes a teacher. Clare, a high-school senior, finds herself pregnant and decides to keep the baby. The novel closes with her wedding and the bittersweet possibilities it promises. McDermott (Child of My Heart, 2002, etc.) infuses the undulating plot with the knowledge that lives become most vivid in small moments of connection, flashlight beams (a recurring motif) illuminating the dark.Genuinely moving yet amorphous, like a remembered fragrance that you can't quite place. Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2006 May #2
While siblings Michael and Annie swing during the Sixties, their big brother heads for Vietnam. With a national tour. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal Reviews 2006 September #1
In her sixth novel, National Book Award winner McDermott (Charming Billy ) continues her examination of the modern Irish American Catholic experience. Through a series of linked vignettes, this quiet story highlights events in the Keane family of Long Island over several decades. John and Mary Keane's somewhat surprising engagement in the late 1940s (both are a little past the usual marrying age) brings about an enduring union. Together, they manage to meet the challenges of raising four children on a limited income, confronting the social and religious struggles of the mid-20th century, and hardest of all losing to the Vietnam War the son they had named for a long-dead World War II soldier. McDermott knows this domestic milieu intimately, and her sure authorial hand illuminates the inner lives of these ordinary people in a way that resonates beyond the mundane to the broad human condition. Recommended for most fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/06.] Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA [Page 138]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 June #3
A master at capturing Irish-Catholic American suburban life, particularly in That Night (1987) and the National Book Award-winning Charming Billy (1998), McDermott returns for this sixth novel with the Keane family of Long Island, who get swept up in the wake of the Vietnam War. When John and Mary Keane marry shortly after WWII, she's on the verge of spinsterhood, and he's a vet haunted by the death of a young private in his platoon. Jacob, their first-born, is given the dead soldier's name, an omen that will haunt the family when Jacob is killed in Vietnam (hauntingly underplayed by McDermott). In vignette-like chapters, some of which are stunning set pieces, McDermott probes the remaining family's inner lives. Catholic faith and Irish heritage anchor John and Mary's feelings, but their children experience their generation's doubt, rebellion and loss of innocence: next eldest Michael, who had always dominated Jacob, drowns his guilt and regret in sex and drugs; Anne quits college and moves to London with a lover; Clare, a high school senior, gets pregnant. The story of '60s and '70s suburbia has been told before, and McDermott has little to say about the Vietnam War itself. But she flawlessly encapsulates an era in the private moments of one family's life. (Sept.) [Page 37]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2007 February
Adult/High School-John and Mary Keane, good Irish Catholics raising four children and sharing their lively family with a spinster "aunt," feel the impact of the 1960s on their family: the sudden freedom of the sexual revolution, the controversy and tragedy of the Vietnam War, and the growing irreverence of popular culture. Their story, which spans the years from the end of World War II to the 1970s, is as ordinary as it is compelling and as suspenseful as it is inevitable. The characters are so human and sympathetic that readers can barely leave them on the last page. The narrative unfolds in economical yet rich language, using flashbacks and foreshadowing to provide insight into characters, hints at world events, and exquisite images. The story is episodic: the meeting and marriage of Mary and John, outings at the ocean, a frightening storm and a fallen tree, the death of their firstborn in Vietnam, the pregnancy of an unmarried daughter, the renovation of the neighborhood church. These mostly ordinary events become extraordinary in the telling, making this a fine read for teens who appreciate family stories.-Jackie Gropman, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.