It's a mistake to rush a McDermott novel,
because in doing so you might miss the little details that make
the whole worthwhile. In After This, she
revisits the familiar ground of an Irish Catholic family living
on Long Island, this time focusing on the Keane family from the
mid 1940s up until the 1970s. By setting her books in
essentially the same location and around the same type of people
time after time, McDermott is able to bring her magnifying glass
to bear on the little details, subtly digging deep into the
psyches of her characters - focusing on the fleeting thoughts
and gestures, and the apparently trivial events, the sort that
are rarely recorded in photo albums but are the bedrock of
Although the Keane family consists of equal numbers of males and females, it feels that McDermott's focus, intentionally or otherwise, is more on the lives of the women. At the heart of this, and her other novels, are simple but profound questions: How do normal, simple people find reason and hope to keep going day after day? How do we build and preserve the stories inside every family in the face of the inevitable sorrows that confront us? How do we balance faith, family and friendship, let alone love?
This review was originally published in October 2006, and has been updated for the September 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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