"Now Joanna is holding the hand of someone waiting for her daughter to arrive. Only months ago, this woman-Lois Flowers-was one of the regulars in Pine Haven's dining room where the residents often linger long after the meal for some form of entertainment or another." Thus begins Jill McCorkle's Life After Life: A Novel, a novel that is set in a small southern town, Fulton North Carolina. The heart of the town is Pine Haven Estates, a retirement home full of eccentric characters. Some of these off-beat folks work for the retirement community others are residents. Each character is rich and full. Jill McCorkle litters the pages with individuals that the reader would love to meet, even the not so likable ones would, at a minimum, certainly make for an interesting conversation.
Saying that Life After Life: A Novel is about a retirement home and dying does not do the novel justice. The story is about self-discovery. "The longest and most expensive journey you will ever make is the one to yourself," is a startling, yet real, realization one of the main characters, Joanna, makes early on in the novel. This is a story about making peace. For many of the characters this is a long and painful journey. Good parenting, bad parenting, good choices, bad choices, choices never made-these are but a few of the issues characters face; especially those who are dying. Rich or poor, it doesn't matter; life is hard and full of adversity. As we all know, adversity is often senseless, painful, and beyond our control, yet how we react to life’s hard knocks is the key to our journey. Many of the characters in Life After Life: A Novel choose to learn valuable lessons from each adversity they encounter.
The chapters are sprinkled with gems for living. For example, one character, C.J., observes, "Real clean people are often overcompensating for some really bad shit and really dirty people just don't care. Which is worse? Flip a coin." Keen observations about life abound, look for them.
Life After Life is a novel full of examples on "how to live" or "not to live" a rewarding life. Take a moment and see what can be learned from Sadie, Joanna, Rachel, Stanley, C.J. and a slew of other folks that are waiting inside these 352 pages. As Joanna says, "Now you see her, now you don't. It's an easy trick, all about making the right turns, standing in the right place at the right time. If you look closely enough you can see the opening; you can see what's coming..." Enjoy the journey!
We want to thank Algonquin Books and Net Galley for providing us with an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of Life After Life: A Novel by Jill McCorkle. As always, Algonquin continues to publish the best and the brightest writers, we are never disappointed after reading a book published by this house.
Life After Life: A Novel
by Jill McCorkle
Jill McCorkle s first novel in seventeen years is alive with the daily triumphs and challenges of the residents and staff of Pine Haven Estates, a retirement facility, which is now home to a good many of Fulton, North Carolina s older citizens. Among them, third-grade teacher Sadie Randolph, who has taught every child in town and believes we are all eight years old in our hearts; Stanley Stone, once Fulton s most prominent lawyer, now feigning dementia to escape life with his son; Marge Walker, the town s self-appointed conveyor of social status who keeps a scrapbook of every local murder and heinous crime; and Rachel Silverman, recently widowed, whose decision to leave her Massachusetts home and settle in Fulton is a mystery to everyone but her. C.J., the pierced and tattooed young mother who runs the beauty shop, and Joanna, the hospice volunteer who discovers that her path to a good life lies with helping folks achieve good deaths, are two of the staff on whom the residents depend.
McCorkle puts her finger on the pulse of every character s strengths, weaknesses, and secrets. And, as she connects their lives through their present circumstances, their pasts, and, in some cases, through their deaths, she celebrates the blessings and wisdom of later life and infuses this remarkable novel with hope and laughter.