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Life After Life: A Novel Paperback – November 5, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Agatha Christie believed that an English village was a microcosm of the world, containing all the virtues and evils of the greatest metropolis. The same might be said of Pine Haven Retirement Center, the hub of McCorkle’s new novel, which interweaves the stories of residents, staff, and visitors in a small Carolina town. There is Joanna, the hospice worker, who records the lives of those passing; Sadie, the longtime resident and onetime schoolteacher, who believes everyone remains their eight-year-old self at heart; and the judgmental Marge, called “Extralarge Marge Barge” by the blustery, rude Stanley. Each tells his or her own story, and the bit player in one story becomes the protagonist of the next, providing an ever-clearer picture of the crisscrossing histories that have made these people who they are. By turns comic, insightful, and heart wrenching, Life after Life shows how old age can give us a second chance: to see ourselves rightly, be truer to those we love, and inspire those we leave behind. --Lynn Weber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Who knew death, regret, and lengthy ruminations about days past could add up to a novel this vibrant, hopeful, and compelling? . . . Gorgeously written . . . McCorkle's greatest gift is in illuminating the countless tiny moments that make up our time on Earth." ―O: The Oprah Magazine

"Clever, bighearted, and wise." ―Vanity Fair

“The elderly residents of Pine Haven live and yearn and challenge one another with an exuberance that jumps off the page.”―The New York Times “Home & Garden” section

“Leave it to McCorkle to plumb the ultimate new beginning in this down-home, Southern-style Book of the Dead. Illuminating, reassuring, and enlarging our understanding of the crossing from this world to the next, her novel sings with the mystical, the magical and the fragility of this thing called life.” ―The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Balances humor and sorrow.” ―NPR’s All Things Considered

“A vividly voiced round-robin of interlocking stories set in and around a North Carolina retirement home . . . Great . . . Sharply real.” ―Entertainment Weekly

“Funny and painful, Life After Life explores not dying, but rather the mysteries of living ― the second chances, the human connection, the love. The result is an impressive and poignant interweaving of vibrant characters; overlapping tales create a whole that is greater than the separate parts. McCorkle returns to the novel with a deeper wisdom and moral intensity. With a Southern flair, she invites the reader to muse on what matters most in the days we are given. Was it worth the wait? In a word, yes.”Richmond Times-Dispatch

“McCorkle’s masterful microcosm invokes profound sadness, harsh insight and guffaws, often on the same page.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“A powerful gift for dialogue has always animated Jill McCorkle’s fiction, and here we hear some astonishing voices . . . As readers, we feel honored to witness their passages.” ―The Boston Globe

“A story and characters that readers won’t soon forget.” ―Minneapolis Star Tribune

(Unpublished endorsements)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: A Shannon Ravenel Book (November 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616203226
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616203221
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (285 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on April 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Pine Haven Estates, a retirement community in Fulton, North Carolina, houses a variety of older people who are served by staff members. Residents, employees and visitors are introduced to readers in descriptions so vivid that we feel as if we know them.

Joanna Lamb is a hospice volunteer who has returned to her hometown with a calling not only to assist the dying to a gentle, good death, but also to keep their memories alive by describing them in her notebook. Joanna's path to redemption has been long and bumpy, including several marriages, a near-death experience, and a final connection with her estranged father. Her best friend in Fulton is the tattooed and pierced C.J., a punk who lives above Joanna's hot dog joint with her baby boy. Joanna knows that C.J. likely would be voted the person least likely to be her best friend, yet the two women click in a tremendously satisfying way.

Resident and retired third-grade teacher Sadie Randolph is an eternal optimist who has her finger on the pulse of the town. She once taught most of the community and, in her heart, believes everyone is internally still around eight years old. Many of her former students visit her, including Ben Palmer and his sad 12-year-old daughter, Abby. Abby is awaiting and dreading the elaborate birthday party her mother is foisting on her, while grieving for the sudden loss of her adorable little dog, Dollbaby. Dollbaby has wandered before, but always has been found. All Abby wants for her birthday is the return of her pet --- although she believes a parental divorce would be another bonus (at least it would stop the incessant arguing Abby must endure).
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Life After Life," by Jill McCorkle is an alluring, subtle, character-driven novel on the theme of life as illusion. The book revolves around Pine Haven Estates, a multi-tiered retirement community in small-town Fulton, North Carolina. Over the course of the novel, we meet a unique collection of fascinating characters. We view their past lives through their eyes as a collection of beloved memories. We also listen in on their current thoughts and witness their daily experiences. Slowly, we grasp the delicate dissonance between reality and illusion. We see life at Pine Haven--as it may be for most of us as we enter that last phase of our lives--as a perpetually morphing shadowland of life after life...mostly illusion, but necessarily so in the overall scheme of things.

McCorkle is an amazing craftsman at developing authentic characters and there are many here in this book to enjoy. That is ultimately the best reason to read this novel: to become immersed in a completely real world...to savor the magnificent richness of ordinary life. But unfortunately, there is a type of claustrophobia that descends after a reader has spent a lot of hours involved with these characters. This is a small community, in a small town, in countryside of North Carolina. Think about that before you chose to open the covers of this book. After all, you will be with these characters, in this community, for a fairly long time.

In many ways, this book could have been a masterpiece, but for me, it slipped from five to four stars for the following reasons. First, it was just too slow. Yes, it was funny and these characters were marvelously normal and delightfully quirky, but that did not make for a compelling novel. I almost gave up on it twice. Second, it often left me feeling uncomfortably claustrophobic.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For many of us, and end of life spent in a nursing home is one of life's dreaded outcomes. In a series of vignettes, McCorkle reveals a gentleness of spirit to be be discovered in a hospice facility. This book is kind , but not saccharine or precious. Certainly there are scenarios not to be envied. But there is one of my favorites Joanne who keeps a private notebook on each patient. There is an official day book, but Joanna's book contains the idiosyncrasies and seminal moments of each resident. Another caretaker is CJ who claims a scandalous past but raises a beloved son. Their past stories, and those of some of the residents form the backbone of the book. These two caretakers caught my mind in their own life struggles and their work at the home.

The residents of the home are in fact described in ways that allow us to meet the defining parts of themselves. It is not an easy task to discuss hospice without stooping to maudlin scenes, but I believe McCorkle does so. From experience, I know that not every resident of hospice is accorded this respect, but I think many caretakers do in fact rise to the challenge as do the staff in this novel. Although this is a point we all must reach, we tend to draw away from its telling. This book doesn't flinch away and impels in a non-melodramatic way to recognize the end of our days.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Beth on April 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
At first, I found the book really confusing. Then, once I got the flow of it, I really enjoyed it. My father is in an assisted living facility and I've never read any other book about one. I liked the perspective about life at that stage of the game and the other characters that came in & out of the facility. But the ending! I hated it! I felt like there must have some sort of deadline so bam! It ended with what should have been the start of another novel (does the culprit ever get caught, what's the impact on other characters)
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