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After This by Alice McDermott

After This (2006)

by Alice McDermott

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I did not like this book at all - read it for a local book club. There seemed to be no plot or story line. A collection of short glimpses of a family over decades but no consistent theme. The book jumped from one time to the next with very poor transitions. ( )
  labdaddy4 | Mar 7, 2013 |
Good book by Alice McDermott. Just went too fast and left a lot of details out. ( )
  kkhughes | Oct 13, 2012 |
I like Alice McDermott, but I just couldn't warm up to this book. All the characters seem to live fairly pointless lives. We don't really get to know or like any of them particularly well, and then it just ends. Very disappointing. ( )
  PermaSwooned | Oct 8, 2012 |
For some reason, this felt more like short stories than the novel it was. I couldn't seem to develop a liking for any of the characters.
  gbelik | Jan 26, 2012 |
“A lot of lessons, but it seems I’ve always known how to play”, responded the young pianist to the family’s priest. “It’s a gift, then,” the priest said. Such is the story of the Mary and John Keane family. Daily events in their lives were being repeated in many families in the 50s and 60s. Author Alice McDermott deftly builds dimension into each character of the Keane family. Like the symbolism that one can pull from the story one can also determine how an attribute or action more fully defines the character.

Four children in the John and Mary Keane family make the way to adulthood in the post-war working class world of Long Island. Jacob, the oldest, on the day he was to leave for Viet Nam, picked up Clare, his youngest sibling, from her elementary school to drive through their community. Perhaps to establish points of interest in his life for her to remember in case he didn’t return; to anchor his life within hers, to be remembered? “...it was, perhaps, the first memory in which she saw him distinctly, on his own, apart from their house and their family, separate.”

Michael, younger than Jacob but the headstrong and the more outgoing of the two boys, could be the first to use his fists, and he knew what buttons to push to rile his brother. Michael could feel tenderness, thinking, he would have saved Jacob from whatever it was he had felt when he asked Lori Ballinger to the Prom and she said, “No I can’t”. Michael took Lori to the Prom.
Michael could easily look in disgust at a discarded cadaver in the bar alley and continue on his way to bed with his bar pickup. Michael’s actions and his thoughts didn’t necessarily intertwine.

“...it was intolerable. Catherine dead and their baby dead. Intolerable and terrible...(there in the softly lit waiting room of the abortion clinic) that despite war and death and pain, ‘life was lovely, rich with small gifts and a nice hotel, a fine meal, love.” Annie had accompanied her friend to the clinic and found the threads of life.

Rebuilding families and neighborhoods; reconciling new sexual freedom with Church teachings and social mores: finding one’s footing on the Viet Nam War; and dealing with the tensions of social transitions, faith and religion -amazingly, John and Mary have been able to pull their family through; not unscathed, but with heart for others and trust and reliance for each other. The Keane family extended their arms to include (with varying tensions) Pauline, Mary’s lifelong friend. Forever the spinster with words for any occasion, Pauline’s life experiences came through Mary Keane and then her children. And there was always room enough, after this...

McDermott’s writing flows, not only in writing style, but as neatly as any 8mm home film capturing a family’s life during the 50s and 60s. I knew families like the Keane family. It wasn’t mine, but I depended on them when I was growing up.
  walkonmyearth | Jan 9, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374168091, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:31 -0400)

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"After This evokes the social, political, and spiritual upheavals of its time through the experiences of a working-class couple, John and Mary Keane, and their four children, and the changes radiating through their Catholic community on Long Island." "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 find himself on the way to Vietnam. Clare, the youngest child of their aging parents, seeks to maintain an impossible, almost saintly innocence. As John and Mary struggle to uphold the framework of their family, the four siblings are destined to experience, firsthand, the challenges and liberties born in the crucible of the 1960s."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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