Summary and book reviews of After This by Alice McDermott

After This

A Novel

by Alice McDermott

After This
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2007, 288 pages

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Book Summary

A vivid portrait of an American family in the middle decades of the twentieth century.

Alice McDermott’s powerful novel is a vivid portrait of an American family in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Witty, compassionate, and wry, it captures the social, political, and spiritual upheavals of those decades through the experiences of a middle-class couple, their four children, and the changing worlds in which they live.

While Michael and Annie Keane taste the alternately intoxicating and bitter first fruits of the sexual revolution, their older, more tentative brother, Jacob, lags behind, until he finds himself on the way to Vietnam. Meanwhile, Clare, the youngest child of their aging parents, seeks to maintain an almost saintly innocence. 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.

I

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. She paused, still on the granite steps, touched the brim of her hat and the flying hem of her skirt—felt the wind rush up her cuffs and rattle her sleeves.


And all before her, the lunch-hour crowd bent under the April sun and into the bitter April wind, jackets flapping and eyes squinting, or else skirts pressed to the backs of legs and jacket hems pressed to bottoms. And trailing them, outrunning them, skittering along the gutter and the sidewalk and the low gray steps of the church, banging into ankles and knees and one another, scraps of paper, newspapers, candy wrappers, what else?—office memos? shopping lists? The paper detritus that she had somewhere read, or had heard it said, trails armies, or was it (she had seen a photograph) the scraps of letters and wrappers and ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your reading of Alice McDermott's After This. We hope they will enrich your experience as your book club explores this moving novel.Winner of the National Book Award, Alice McDermott has captivated countless readers with her tender portrayals of family life in America, from Irish-Catholic suburbia to the beaches of Long Island and Manhattan's historic streets. After This, her sixth novel, takes us to the cultural transitions of the mid-twentieth century—the span between World War II and Nixon, when a sexual revolution, Vatican II, draft registration for the controversial Vietnam conflict, and other headlines spelled upheaval for families across ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

It's a mistake to rush a McDermott novel because in doing so you might miss the little details that make the whole thing worthwhile - the fleeting thoughts and gestures that are her forte, and the the apparently trivial events - the sort that are rarely recorded in the photo album but are the bedrock of every family life.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

The Washington Post - Jane Hamilton

McDermott is at the height of her powers here, charging her seemingly ordinary scenes with the possibility of danger, of terror or mystery and, on occasion, radiance.

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

Her easy authority with this material, combined with her clear-eyed sympathy for her characters, results in a moving, old-fashioned story about longing and loss and sorrow.

Library Journal

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.

Kirkus Reviews

A disarmingly understated tale....McDermott infuses the undulating plot with the knowledge that lives become most vivid in small moments of connection...genuinely moving yet amorphous, like a remembered fragrance that you can't quite place.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. McDernott flawlessly encapsulates an era in the private moments of one family's life.

Reader Reviews

jill carmel

After This by Alice McDermott
I was disappointed after reading Charming Billy -I thought this one would be just as good.

judy

very disappointed
I was very excited when this book became available at my local library. It had been on my "must read" list for sometime so it was with great anticipation that I began to read. I found the book boring and the characters uninteresting. If the...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Alice McDermott was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1953.  Her first novel, A Bigamists' Daughter, was published to wide acclaim in 1982. That Night (1987) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. At Weddings and Wakes (1992) was a New York Times bestseller. Charming Billy (1998), won the National Book Award.  Child of My Heart followed in 2002.

She received her B.A. in 1975 from the State University of New York at Oswego, and her M.A. in 1978 from the University of New Hampshire. She has taught ...

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