29 March 2013

Impirnt Friday: Life after Life by Jill McCorkle

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

For those of us who are fans of Jill McCorkle's that seventeen-year wait for another novel was well worth it. Her Life after Life, set in a fictional assisted living facility in Fulton, North Carolina, was released just this week.

Here is the publisher's summary:

Award-winning author Jill McCorkle takes us on a splendid journey through time and memory in this, her tenth work of fiction. Life After Life is filled with a sense of wonder at our capacity for self-discovery at any age. And the residents, staff, and neighbors of the Pine Haven retirement center (from twelve-year-old Abby to eighty-five-year-old Sadie) share some of life's most profound discoveries and are some of the most true-to-life characters that you are ever likely to meet in fiction. There's retired 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, a 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; Rachel Silverman, recently widowed, whose decision to leave her Massachusetts home and settle at Pine Haven is a puzzle to everyone but her; C.J., the pierced and tattooed young mother who runs the beauty shop; and Joanna Lamb, the hospice volunteer who discovers that her path to a good life lies in helping people achieve good deaths. As each character begins to connect with another, the mysteries and consequences of their lives are revealed. What they eventually learn about themselves and one another will profoundly transform them all. Delivered with her trademark wit, Jill McCorkle's constantly surprising novel illuminates the possibilities of second chances, hope, and rediscovering life right up to the very end. With Life After Life, she has conjured up an entire community that reminds all of us that grace and magic can and do appear when we least expect it.
I know you probably think a book about the people in a retirement center, especially when the central character is a hospice volunteer, will be too sad or depressing to bear. But if you think that about Life after Life, you're wrong. In truth, McCorkle's  novel is about families, community, and finding a way to inner peace.

At the core of the book is Joanna, who not only makes the elderly comfortable at the end of their days but also helps keep their memories alive by recording their thoughts, stories, dreams, and last words in her spiral-bound journal. She becomes close to her patients and keeps the memory of them alive by preserving their personal quirks, favorite colors, and best qualities. Here's what she wrote about one man:
I will think of him every time I smell tobacco or peel an avocado or hear mention of Angie Dickinson or the word bulge. I will continue to marvel at his ability to reflect back to people what they need to see and how it seemed he needed nothing. (p. 153; uncorrected proofs)
If fact, although the stories of Joanna and C.J. move the plot along (and sometimes to surprising places), I was particularly taken with the vignettes of each patient and Joanna's journal entries. Not every character is likeable but each is realistically portrayed and will likely remind you of someone you have known.

Rather than a novel about death and dying, Jill McCorkle's Life after Life is really a celebration of family (parenting, care giving, marriage) and community. The Pine Haven residents have a lot to say about life and friendships and looking forward, and you'll likely be thinking of them and sharing their stories even after you finish the book.

For more about McCorkle and Life after Life, listen to an interview she gave with NPR and/or watch a short video in which she talks about her writing life and the origins of the novel. Don't forget to visit McCorkle's website, and be sure to check out her tour schedule at the Algonquin website.

Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011. Don't forget to follow Algonquin on Twitter and Facebook and read their blog (where you can sign up for the Algonquin newsletter).

Buy Life after Life at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by Workman / Algonquin Books 2013
ISBN-13: 9781565122550

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


bermudaonion 3/29/13, 8:57 AM  

This sounds fantastic! I do think it's a shame that two books with the same name are coming out so close together.

rhapsodyinbooks 3/29/13, 9:00 AM  

I read a big article about the gaaah-ing of the two publishing houses each dealing with two big authors coming out with books with the same name - i.e., "Life After Life" - within days of one another! What are the odds?!!

Kailana 3/29/13, 10:11 AM  

17 years?? That's quite the time between books... I read Atkinson's book of a similar title (ha) and loved it. Maybe I should try this one, too. :)

Daryl 3/29/13, 10:30 AM  

this sounds like a good read, thanks

Vasilly 3/29/13, 11:20 AM  

I keep getting this mixed up with the new Kate Atkinson book. I love the excerpt you included. This sounds like a great book.

Zibilee 3/29/13, 1:41 PM  

This does sound excellent, and I love that there are so many varied characters and that they populate such a vivid atmosphere. I am not normally the type of person who would read a book about an assisted living facility, but this one sounds like a book that I would love. Thanks for the excellent spotlight today!

Angela 3/29/13, 4:09 PM  

Thank you so much to the introduction to this terrific-sounding read. I've had to now immediately add it to my tbr list :)

I've nominated you for the no-strings-attached, no rules, Your Blog is Fabulous Award. Because it really is :)

bookjourney 3/29/13, 4:42 PM  

This sounds like a good read. I like that it is about celebrating.

(Diane) bookchickdi 3/30/13, 9:15 AM  

My mom works in an assisted living center and I think she would love this novel.

Beth Hoffman 3/30/13, 10:02 AM  

You've really grabbed my interest with this one. The fact that it celebrates life sounds so uplifting.

Kelly 3/30/13, 11:04 AM  

I so want to read this now! Makes me miss hanging out with my gramma at the retirement center she lived in and getting to know all of her friends and neighbors. Definitely putting this one on the wishlist.

Laurie C 3/30/13, 1:34 PM  

I just reviewed this one and liked it a lot, too!

Julie P. 4/1/13, 7:38 PM  

I am anxious to read this one too. It's unfortunate about the titles since editors can't help but compare them.

Jenners 4/3/13, 7:59 PM  

I thought you listed the author wrong since I just read Kate Atkinson's Life After Life (which is just coming out). Loved Kate's book!

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