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Life After Life: A Novel by Jill McCorkle

Life After Life: A Novel (edition 2013)

by Jill McCorkle

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Title:Life After Life: A Novel
Authors:Jill McCorkle
Info:A Shannon Ravenel Book (2013), Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Life after Life by Jill McCorkle



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Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The residents of Pine Haven Retirement Center are the focus of Jill McCorkle’s novel, which weaves together the stories of many different characters. I would describe this as a quirky, humorous read. I enjoyed it, though it was a bit slow in parts. ( )
  gwendolyndawson | Jun 11, 2014 |
Life After Life, centers around retirement home, Pine Haven Estates, with eccentric characters from a resident who only pretends to be insane, to a little girl, who finds comfort in her much older friends. Each chapter is told in a different character's pov, which I don't mind as long as they are obviously distinct, which they are in Life After Life. There were some chapters, like Joann's notebook entries that seemed unnecessary, but I get it. The story really picks up have way through, but I was a little disappointed with the ending - too much of a shocker for one character that didn't sit well with me. Still a pretty good read. ( )
  LauraT81 | Jun 5, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a very sweet book about a woman woking in a retirement facility about about end of life issues. It was interesting to read about all the different ways people deal with these end of life decisions and how people approach their end life as well as those of their family' and close friends.
  chutzpanit | Feb 5, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It must be very difficult to write a book from multiple perspectives. The characters must come together in some meaningful way so one cohesive story is told, rather than several intersecting stories. Having said that, it should come as no surprise that I think the lack of a cohesive story is one of this book's major flaws. The characters all live in close proximity in a small town, and all either live in, or have some connection to, the local retirement center. But, for the most part, their stories don't really impact each other.

Another major flaw is that the narrative is interrupted by journal entries by one of the characters. If these journal entries had given us any insight into this character that would have been one thing, but they are her write-ups of the dying moments of her clients. Some of them are of characters we have already met at the retirement center, but many of them are people she met in her life prior to returning to the small town where the book is set. If they had been about people we had met, giving some closure to a life we had read about, or even if they had helped us see her character learn and grow, that would have been one thing. But, by and large, they are neither related to the story nor relevant to it.

In a "Conversation with the Author" published in the back of the ARC I received, McCorkle states that she knew all along how one character's story would end, and she chooses to end the book there as well. This is all well and good, except that I felt like she hadn't given me enough about the character throughout the book to earn this ending. Contrast this with other characters, who get more page-time, if not much more development, whose stories are left unresolved.

For all that, there are many good things about this book. Each character's story has something to offer, and I wish McCorkle had chosen to write a book of related short stories rather than try to put it all together as one novel. ( )
  mzonderm | Jan 27, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
McCorkle's LIFE AFTER LIFE was originally published in April 2013, the same month as Kate Atkinson's book by the same title. Though McCorkle's book is smaller in scope and ambition, it is equal to Atkinson's in quality.

An ensemble of characters narrates in the third person. We are introduced, first, to Joanna, a hospice worker who helps ease people into death, and then writes about them in a notebook to remember them. (Her journal entries are included, as are the brief final thoughts, memories, or flashbacks of the dying.)

Joanna moved back to her hometown of Fulton, NC, before her father's death, and now runs the family business and volunteers at Pine Haven. Many of the novel's main characters are connected with Pine Haven, either as residents, frequent visitors, or employees. There is Sadie, who taught third grade and who believes everyone is really eight years old at heart; Abby, the son of Joanna's childhood best friend Ben, who has an unhappy life at home and often comes to visit Sadie; Rachel Silverman, who came down from Boston for reasons known only to herself; Stanley Stone, who acts as if he has dementia in order to encourage his son Ned to live his own life; Toby Tyler, a cheerful lesbian; and C.J., a young beautician with a three-year-old son. Kendra, Ben's appalling wife and Abby's mother, also takes a turn (I suspect she is the character the author refers to as "completely unredeemable" in the back matter.)

So rarely do I finish a book and wish there was more. I did wish for more at the end of LIFE AFTER LIFE, not because it was incomplete, but simply because I wanted to know. I would have liked to hear Ben's perspective, and known more about his and Joanna's history together. I like to think that the crime committed near the end of the story would have been solved, and the culprit brought to justice; I would like to know that Abby will be okay. The reader must make these decisions, though, for the author leaves her characters' lives open-ended.

Overall, this is a beautiful book, with fully-realized characters of every age - another rare thing. I highly recommend it.


There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning. -Thornton Wilder

The pain of losing people you love is the price of the ticket for getting to know them at all. (Sadie, 26)

And for the first time I saw him for what he really was, a bridge between two places - the past and the present - the before and the after. The world I shared with my parents and the one I have all alone. (Joanna's notebook, 77)

Why does she remember such things, bits of memories popping in like little commercials of another time? (Rachel, 125)

...and if she had the chance to do it all over again, she would not ask for a different life at all. She has loved her life. But what she would ask is to be born into a different world; she would ask for an honest and accepting world. (Toby, 200)

One day you are independent and thriving and then you are bedridden and surrounded by the smells and sounds of those who will never venture outside again and all that falls between the two blurs like the view from a passing train. (Rachel, 204)

"I wish we could zoom from our lives and see the great big picture. It might make more sense." (Rachel, 209)

Places always feel so empty right after someone dies, the sensation of a whole lifetime of people and memories disappearing with that last breath, the air sucked right out of the scene. (Joanna, 263-264)

"It feels like I'm alive again...We live days and weeks and months and years with so little awareness of life. We wait for the bad things that wake us up and shock our systems. But every now and then, on the most average day, it occurs to you that this is it. This is all there is." (Rachel, 293) ( )
  JennyArch | Jan 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
In its quiet way, “Life After Life,” McCorkle’s sixth novel, is a daring venture — an attempt to tell a big story inside a tiny orbit. At the Pine Haven retirement center in the author’s familiar, fictional Fulton, N.C., dinner is finished early, which is fine with sunny Sadie, “who likes to watch ‘Jeopardy’ in her pajamas.” Other occupants are less delighted with the place: crusty Toby, a retired schoolteacher, repairs to her room, “haunted by little past moments,” and Rachel, once a lawyer up North, sniffs at Southern manners and sweet tea, succumbing to “a wave of time sickness” for her former life.

The prospect of spending hours among these people might seem tedious to a reader not having to bunk at Pine Haven himself (“Who in the hell wants dinner at 5:30?” as feisty Rachel complains), but McCorkle is a poet of the everyday.
The book — released a week before Kate Atkinson's novel of the same title — revolves around characters linked in different ways to Pine Haven, a retirement center in Fulton, N.C. Chapters alternate between bits of narrative and short pieces about various characters' deaths written from two points of view — that of a hospice volunteer and that of the deceased.

As grim and morbid as this sounds, it's not. McCorkle's writing is tender and warm and funny, not sad.
Amid a literary landscape increasingly rife with metafictional and postmodern high jinks, Jill McCorkle's sixth novel, Life After Life, is as resolutely down to earth and unpretentious as the hot-dog franchise owned by one of her characters.
added by melissarochelle | editNPR, Heller McAlpin (Mar 27, 2013)
If parts of the novel read like a needlepoint sampler, other parts read like needlepoint graffiti.
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The residents, staff, and neighbors of the Pine Haven retirement center (from twelve-year-old Abby to eighty-five-year-old Sadie) share some of life's most profound discoveries. What they eventually learn about themselves and one another will transform them all.… (more)

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