From The Washington Post:
In one of her bracing essays about writing, Flannery O’Connor says, “There is no excuse for anyone to write fiction for public consumption unless he has been called to do so by the presence of a gift.” It is no secret that Alice McDermott, winner of the 1998 National Book Award for Charming Billy, is a writer of many talents, but to read her new novel, After This , is to be reminded how rare her gifts are.
McDermott country is Long Island, 1940 to the present, and her people Irish Catholics: parents, spinster aunts, alcoholic relatives and always observant children who must grow beyond the safe-keeping of their parents. In After This , McDermott continues to pose her perennial questions: Does the lie that is faith, that is romance, that is poetry, make ordinary life better or worse? How best can a person survive disappointments, sorrows and also blessings day after day? How do we preserve our love for the dead when we can obtain only a limited amount of solace from telling stories about them?