Tuesday, January 14, 2014

make it real

Life After Life by Jill McCorkle
Rating: 3 stars (out of five)
Genre: fiction
Review: It must be very difficult to write a book from multiple perspectives.  The characters must come together in some meaningful way so one cohesive story is told, rather than several intersecting stories.  Having said that, it should come as no surprise that I think the lack of a cohesive story is one of this book's major flaws.  The characters all live in close proximity in a small town, and all either live in, or have some connection to, the local retirement center.  But, for the most part, their stories don't really impact each other.

Another major flaw is that the narrative is interrupted by journal entries by one of the characters.  If these journal entries had given us any insight into this character that would have been one thing, but they are her write-ups of the dying moments of her clients.  Some of them are of characters we have already met at the retirement center, but many of them are people she met in her life prior to returning to the small town where the book is set.  If they had been about people we had met, giving some closure to a life we had read about, or even if they had helped us see her character learn and grow, that would have been one thing.  But, by and large, they are neither related to the story nor relevant to it.

In a "Conversation with the Author" published in the back of the ARC I received, McCorkle states that she knew all along how one character's story would end, and she chooses to end the book there as well.  This is all well and good, except that I felt like she hadn't given me enough about the character throughout the book to earn this ending.  Contrast this with other characters, who get more page-time, if not much more development, whose stories are left unresolved.

For all that, there are many good things about this book.  Each character's story has something to offer, and I wish McCorkle had chosen to write a book of related short stories rather than try to put it all together as one novel.

FCC Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for this review.