After This by Alice McDermott
This was one of my book club selections, and I was the only one who got all the way through it (and one of only two who wished to).
The criticism was that nothing much really happened in this book. And I can see that.
But I really rather liked it anyway.
Now, if we apply the test, Would I have finished the book had it not been assigned? ...well, prob’ly not. But I’m glad I read it.
I’m also glad it qualified for my Reading Madly challenge, particularly since it evoked that time period very clearly for me. These characters could live across town from the Drapers (not quite across the tracks from them, but not next door, either).
There are certain scenes that I keep thinking about, such as when Jacob springs his little sister from school so they can drive around and look at his old haunts the day he leaves for
. And the moment when his
sister is called to the school office, and she knows it’s because her brother
has died in the war. And the moment, years before, when their parents first met
each other as strangers in a diner in Vietnam .
It’s a fairly quiet family story, and it’s told in vignettes—almost like a short story collection. Each chapter / vignette / story has a particular family member at its heart, and by focusing on one character at a time, we get to see the others in a different light.
It’s all about the characters here. If you read for character, and you’re looking for a slice of life in the 1950s-1960s, here’s one to try.