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Friday, July 5, 2013

Life After Life by Jill McCorkle

Life After Life by Jill McCorkle
Published by Algonquin  ISBN 978-1565122550
Hardcover, $24.95, 352 pages
Life After Life appealed to me because of its setting- an assisted living center and nursing home in North Carolina. The premise centers on Joanna, who has moved back home after an estrangement from her parents. She volunteers at the home, writing down the memories of those who are close to death.

Through this conceit, we meet many characters, and learn much about their lives. Rachel moved there from Boston after her husband died to be closer to the man she had a love affair with years ago. He died too, but this makes her feel closer to him and the happiest time of her life.

Toby was a teacher, forced to retire after a student made a complaint about her. She is a very athletic, gregarious woman, looking to make friends. Sadie was also a teacher, beloved by her students and a loving wife to Horace who died when he just in his 40s. Sadie is the wise soul, and she had become attached to a young neighborhood girl whose parents have a troubled marriage.

Stanley lost his wife and he was afraid that his son would give up his own life to care for him. So he pretends to have dementia and has to move into the home, hoping this will give his son the opportunity to move on with his life. He believes his boorish behavior hides the truth of his situation.

CJ is Joanna's friend, a young woman who has a difficult past- her mother committed suicide and she has a baby with a married man. CJ works at the nursing home in the beauty shop. She is trying to get her life together, with Joanna's help.

This novel is all about the characters; we get to know them know their stories and their secrets. We see how they relate to each, the connections they make. There are many sad tales here, and reading this makes you realize that every person you meet has his or her own life story, like the ones that Joanna writes down.

The story itself is less strong. There are many characters in this novel, and the focus is somewhat dispersed. I do think it would make a wonderful movie though. I found the ending a bit jarring and abrupt.

I liked the characters in this story, but the abrupt ending hurt the overall concept for me.

rating 3.5 of 5

You can read an excerpt of the book on Jill McCorkle's website here.

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