Life after Life (McCorkle)

This book, which arrived around the same time as Kate Atkinson’s book of the same name, got lost in the shuffle, I think. Atkinson’s book was fairly forgettable; this one is not. The setting is a retirement home in the south, and the people who are at various stages of dying there. The story also incorporates those who are, by relation or by necessity, connected to those in the home. So in one sense, we get life after life because there are a series of a voices here. One life after another. Then there’s our central character, who has made it her mission to sit with the dying. She moves from one life to another. Finally, there’s the play on ‘life after death.’ Instead, McCorkle seems to be suggesting something more affirmative, that most, if not all (sadly) of the characters do have second acts to their lives. Redemption is possible. Joanna is a prime example.

The only character that rings false here is Kendra, a scheming mother who is not so much neglecting her daughter as not noticing her, and is on the verge of leaving her unhappy marriage. McCorkle renders her so flat as to be unbelievable. And, because she used to teach English, I had a soft spot for Toby.

If this were a movie, I’d say wait to rent it. If you’re into Southern gothic stuff, this is on the light end of the spectrum.


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