Review: Life After Life: A Novel by Jill McCorkle

life after life1 “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.”  — Goodreads

Well. For some reason I was expecting Life After Life: A Novel by Jill McCorkle to be a light and easy read, something I could consume without becoming too emotionally invested. Boy, was I wrong. From the very first page, McCorkle’s writing grabs you and sucks you in and you’re just along for the ride because she is driving this train and pulling you with her, with the sweet and powerful words of the women and men of this delightful ensemble cast of characters. Each person came alive for me with their unique voices and their tales of the paths that life has led them on.

Life After Life reads vignette-style, switching back and forth between various characters’ stories, pages from Joanna’s (the hospice worker) journal about those she sits with as they pass, and brief descriptions of what each person who is passing is experiencing as they pass. The latter in particular is written with what I found to be achingly beautiful insight. Multiple tears were shed, people! The one aspect about which I hold back my sweet song of praise is the ending; it seems oddly out of place compared to the rest of the book and just doesn’t seem to fit cohesively with the work as a whole. This is a small issue, however, and did little to take away from my enjoyment of the rest of the book. Life After Life affected me deeply, long after I finished reading it. I strongly urge you to pick it up today!

5 out of 5 stars

Who I would recommend this book to:  My BFF, Carrie, who has a soft spot for the elderly and would adore the characters brought to life here. I have placed it on her assigned reading list.

Source: Lincoln City Libraries Digital Downloads

2 thoughts on “Review: Life After Life: A Novel by Jill McCorkle

  1. Barb Parker says:

    This was a beautiful book. Each character was so important to me. I actually only allowed myself 20 pages a day – I wanted it to last. Even while reading it, I knew that I would be re-reading it very soon. . .until the very ending which I found tremendously disappointing. Did she let someone else finish the book for her? Did she have a stroke? Is a surprise ending so important that you lose the integrity of the rest of it? Can we host a contest to write a better ending?

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