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The Ninth Hour: A Novel Hardcover – September 19, 2017
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PRAISE FOR THE NINTH HOUR
2017 Kirkus Prize Finalist
“McDermott has extended her range and deepened it, allowing for more darkness, more generous lashings of the spiritual . . . Vivid and arresting . . . Marvelously evocative.” ―Mary Gordon, The New York Times Book Review
“Beautifully observed, quietly absorbing . . . This enveloping novel, too, is a tonic, if not a cure.” ―Heller McAlpin, NPR
“[T]he precision of a master . . . [A] great novel.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“Stunning… McDermott has created a haunting and vivid portrait of an Irish Catholic clan in early 20th century America.” ―The Associated Press
“Brilliant… perhaps her finest work to date.” ―Michael Magras, The Houston Chronicle
“A remarkable snapshot of early 20th-century Irish-Catholic Brooklyn.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“[B]eautifully crafted . . . McDermott illuminates everyday scenes with such precise, unadorned descriptions that the reader feels he or she is there, hidden in the background . . . [Everything] is treated with McDermott’s exquisite language, tinged with her signature wit…. [A] novel to savor and to share.” ―Bookpage
“McDermott is a poet of corporeal description . . . it's the way she marries the spirit to the physical world that makes her work transcendent . . . The Ninth Hour is a story with the simple grace of a votive candle in a dark church.” ―Sarah Begley, Time
"In this enveloping, emotionally intricate, suspenseful drama, McDermott lures readers into her latest meticulously rendered Irish American enclave. . . Like Alice Munro, McDermott is profoundly observant and mischievously witty, a sensitive and consummate illuminator of the realization of the self, the ravages of illness and loss, and the radiance of generosity. . . McDermott’s extraordinary precision, compassion, and artistry are entrancing and sublime. . . This is one of literary master McDermott’s most exquisite works." ―Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred review
“This seamlessly written new work from National Book Award winner McDermott asks how much we owe others, how much we owe ourselves, and, of course, McDermott’s consistent attention to the Catholic faith, how much we owe God . . . In lucid, flowing prose, McDermott weaves her character’ stories to powerful effect. Highly recommended.” ―Library Journal, starred review
“McDermott delivers an immense, brilliant novel about the limits of faith, the power of sacrifice, and the cost of forgiveness . . . It’s the thread that follows Sally’s coming of age and eventual lapse of faith that is the most absorbing. Scenes detailing her benevolent encounters . . . are paradoxically grotesque and irresistible . . . McDermott exhibits a keen eye for character." ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Everything that her readers, the National Book Award committee, and the Pulitzer Prize judges love about McDermottt’s stories of Irish-Catholic American life is back.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott: National Book Award winner McDermott is simply one of the finest living Catholic writers, and her new novel looks to capture the spirit of her previous work: families and cultures strained by the optimism of faith tempered by the suffering of reality. ... A generational novel sure to appeal to longtime McDermott fans, and to bring-in new readers as well.” ―The Millions
“Extraordinary . . . Astonishing . . . Compelling . . . Surely there has never been as strong and clear-eyed a novel about kindness as Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour . . . McDermott is yet again at the height of her formidable powers. This work of art comes to us at a time when, as much as ever, we need a call to compassion.” ―East Hampton Star
“Any good and proper Most-Anticipated-Fiction list of mine will always start with Alice McDermott.” ―The Quivering Pen
“McDermott [is] the master of understated storytelling.” ―Washington Independent Review of Books
Publishers Weekly Top 10 Literary Fiction Picks for Fall 2017
Excerpted in The New Yorker
PRAISE FOR ALICE MCDERMOTT
“McDermott has the soul of an archaeologist―excavating shards of the daily routine, closely examining the cracks and crevices of the human heart.” ―O Magazine
“Exquisite. . . deft. . . filled with so much universal experience, such haunting imagery, such urgent matters of life and death.” ―The New York Times
“Packed with complexity and emotion” ―The Washington Post
“Filled with subtle insights and abundant empathy and grace.” ―USA Today
“Lyrical study of quotidian life. . . McDermott manages to write lyrically in plain language, she is able to find the drama in uninflected experience.” ―Los Angeles Times
“With virtuosic concision, McDermott assembles this swirl of seemingly mundane anecdotes into a powerful examination of love, mortality, and ‘the way of all flesh.’” ―The New Yorker
"The micropoetry elevates the book from a gently story to a multilayered Our Town-like tale.” ―People
“Each slide, each scene, from the ostensibly inconsequential to the clearly momentous, is illuminated with equal care.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“The landscape of memory is a chiaroscuro in motion.” ―Boston Globe
“That’s the spectacular power of McDermott’s writing: Without ever putting on literary airs, she reveals to us what’s distinct about characters who don’t have the ego or eloquence to make a case for themselves as being anything special.” ―Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air, NPR
“Extraordinary art woven out of ordinary lives.” ―The Quivering Pen
“Gripping and resonant. . . In her own way, she achieves as much as the dazzling, muscular ‘hysterical realists.’ For she manages to break all the basic rules of writing―only quietly.” ―NPR
“Almost without exception, each moment . . . is so thoroughly mined so that every story, nearly every thought it seems, reveals the true complexity of our lives.” ―The Coffin Factory
“[McDermott] is a sublime artist of the quotidian.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“In beautifully understated language and an unerringly nimble free-associative narrative, McDermott weaves such an intimate complex life study that we feel each . . . accumulating loss until they become staggering.” ―Elle
About the Author
Alice McDermott is the author of seven previous novels, including After This; Child of My Heart; Charming Billy, winner of the 1998 National Book Award; At Weddings and Wakes; and Someone―all published by FSG. That Night, At Weddings and Wakes, and After This were all finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the Richard A. Macksey Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University.
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Beginning with a suicide on a dismal winter’s day in Catholic/immigrant Brooklyn near the beginning of the 20th century, McDermott completely and vividly captures the time, place and denizens of this moment in the history of New York, the US, and of the Catholic Church.
The novel is narrated by a collective “we”; the children and grandchildren of the main characters. This narrative choice was captivating and thoroughly realistic for me, as I am the great-grandchild of Irish Catholic immigrants whose stories and faith were handed down from generation to generation.
McDermott centers the story around two families and the nuns belonging to the convent of the “Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor, Congregation of Mary Before the Cross”. I became particularly fond of the nun characters as McDermott fully renders each as individuals; sweet Sister Jeanne, stern Sister Lucy, pragmatic Sister Illuminata, and manipulative Sister Saint Savoir who starts the whole story rolling. So often modern literature depicts nuns in a negative light, it was refreshing to meet nun characters who were “real”: neither all good nor all bad, each with their own motivations and beliefs. Sister Jeanne especially focuses her faith on “fairness” and the belief that God will make everything balance in the end, even though in life we see so much unfairness: the good suffer, evil is rewarded. This is a running theme throughout the novel.
McDermott’s neighborhood is filled with details that are but a memory today:
- Milk Men
- Nuns begging for alms and nursing the poor
- Statues covered in purple cloth during Lent
- The certainty of Heaven and Hell
Midway through the novel there is a chapter that takes place on an overnight train ride between New York and Chicago that is both perfect and genius, and the reason why McDermott is an acclaimed author. Her writing puts the reader right on that train with the character Sally, who is going to Chicago with the intention of becoming a nun like the Little Sisters she grew up with (her mother worked in the convent laundry). I could almost hear, smell, taste, and feel, along with Sally on her transformative ride.