After This by Alice McDermott

   ‘Alice McDermott’s powerful new novel wittily captures the social, political and spiritual upheavals of the mid-twentieth century through the story of a family, and the changing world in which they live.
   After This, alive with the passions and tragedies of a determining era in our history, portrays the clash of traditional, faith-bound life and modern freedom, while also capturing, with McDermott’s inimitable understanding and grace, the joy, sorrow, anger, and love that underpin, and undermine, what it is to be a family.’


This is the story of Mary and John Keane and their four children. They are an Irish-Catholic family living in Long Island, NY. We meet Mary Rose a thirty-ish  single woman who lives with her father and brother, her mother is dead. She wonders if she will ever get married.  John Keane is home from the war with a bum leg as a result. They meet one day at a diner over lunch and our story of their life together begins.

I am not a Catholic, but I love reading novels with characters, like Mary and John, with strong ties like the Irish Catholic have to their faith and to family. I enjoyed meeting all the different families of different ethnicity in the neighborhood. The Persichetti’s, the Italian family on their street and the old man who owned the local grocery, Hungarian or Russian, I can’t remember now. That’s the draw back to an audio book, its hard to go back and double check things:(  And there’s Pauline, Mary’s friend who never marries and has no family. She adopts Mary and her family as her own.

Mary and John were young during WWII and their kids are growing up in the Vietnam War era. So many changes from one generation to the next.

This book was wonderful. I really hated for it to end. Ms. McDermott describes the mundane, day-to-day events of middle-class people—births and deaths, the fixing of meals, the ebb and flow of love, and the development of relationships inside the family and out. I love how she doesn’t deal with all the details of the characters lives, but focuses on their inner lives. By the time the book is finished you feel like you know them intimately. She seamlessly moves from one character to the next, exposing them to us not only thru their own thoughts and actions but thru people they encounter like the Catholic school secretary, Mr. Persichetti, Pauline, the grocer, the lady in line in front of Mary at the fair, their priest. And of course each other.

I don’t want to tell you too much about the story because it’s so much better to let it all unfold new as you read it. But we have a hurricane, a home birth, devastated families from the Vietnam war, abortion being legitimized…

I enjoyed this one more than ‘Someone’ her latest novel. I am looking forward to reading ‘Charming Billy’ next! There’s a wonderful long excerpt from the book HERE that you can read and see if you think this book is for you too!

Peggy Ann

4 thoughts on “After This by Alice McDermott

  1. You've got me adding to my wish list again, Peggy! I'm still a long way from the top of the library hold list for Someone…maybe I could read this while I wait 😉


  2. I love books that have the life styles back so detailed and with great characters.

    THANKS for sharing.

    Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved November Edition. I am in the list as #28. My book entry is below.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Book Entry


  3. Hi Peggy Ann. This does sound good – I read Charming Billy many years ago, and this sounds similar. I like books that tell stories of families over a historical background. Thanks for reminding me of an author I hadn't thought of in a while.


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