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Life After Life Hardcover – 26 Mar 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Shannon Ravenel Books (26 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565122550
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565122550
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 2.9 x 21.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,885,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 April 2013
Format: Hardcover
I began Jill McCorkle's new novel, "Live After Life", and read about three quarters through and had no trouble rating it as a 4 star novel. By the time I finished, however, I upped it to 5 star. There was something in both the plot and the characterisations that left me almost in tears as I finished my stay at the Pine Haven Retirement Center and in some of the surrounding homes, as well as the adjacent cemetery.

Jill McCorkle has written an almost lyrical novel of people and place. The plot turns around the residents - both past and present - of the Pine Haven Home in Fulton, North Carolina and of the visitors who come and go. Some are the children of residents; visiting a surviving parent in his or her old age. And one is a young girl, Abby, who befriends some of the residents and finds the nurturing and loving that she doesn't get from her own distant parents. The residents may be called caricatures - dotty old man, grieving widow, not-very-nice gorgon - and so on. But McCorkle gives her characters so much nuance and individuality that the "dotty old man" has reasons for his (pretend) "dottiness".

All the residents have moved into Pine Haven for different reasons. Often it's a "refuge" from life's disappointments and sometimes it's a quiet final point to prepare for end of life. The most interesting - to me - resident is an 80 year old lawyer - Rachel Silverman - who has moved to North Carolina from Boston to seek "closeness" to a man she'd had an affair with in Boston years before. Joe Carlyle had been the love of her life and she wanted to see where he had lived...and died. She believed meeting the people who had known him in his home town would help her mourn his death.
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By PT Cruiser TOP 100 REVIEWER on 30 May 2014
Format: Paperback
When I ordered this book I thought it was going to be a series of recollections by a hospice nurse about patients in a nursing home and their last days. There was some of that, but it was actually a small part of the book although scattered throughout. Most the book was about the residents, a young girl who visited often from the neighborhood, a hospice nurse and a young single mother who gave manicures and pedicures and beauty treatments in the salon and other friends and relatives who visited. Jill McCorkle did a wonderful job of developing the characters and making me feel attached to them. This book was about living as much as it was about facing the end of life. She writes with such a sensitivity that it was impossible not to become involved. The ending was rather abrupt and leaves an opening for a sequel. I hope that's what McCorkle had in mind.
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Format: Paperback
LIFE AFTER LIFE. After a 17-year hiatus, well-loved and award-winning American author Jill McCorkle delivers her sixth novel. In LIFE AFTER LIFE, which is set in the American South, more specifically McCorkle's home state of North Carolina, the writer presents us with the residents, staff, and neighbors of the Pine Haven retirement center in Fulton, North Carolina. Twelve year old Abby Palmer, who lives next door, visits often, particularly 85-year old Sadie Randolph, matriarch of the town and the home. Sadie, a former third-grade teacher, believes in looking on the bright side, and that we are all eight years old in our hearts. Stanley Stone was once the town's most prominent lawyer; he now is feigning dementia to escape the burdens of his life. Marge Walker, Fulton's self-appointed arbiter of status, with a voluminous scrapbook of the local heinous crimes. Rachel Silverman, recently widowed, who puzzles everyone by having left her native Boston for Fulton, where she knows nobody. Toby, retired lesbian schoolteacher. And C.J., beautiful, pierced and tattooed, Kurt's young single mother, who provides the home's beauty services.
We meet all these vivid characters through the book's central character Joanna. A native of Fulton, much-married and divorced, to the town's amusement, she had returned home for her father's death, now owns and runs her inherited hot dog stand, the Dog House, and volunteers at the facility, where she is especially involved with the dying. As, the residents fear, is Harley, their rotund ginger cat, who seems to have a particular nose for the dying, as does another nursing home cat recently become famous.

I've never read McCorkle before this, and really wanted to like this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 249 reviews
51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
A page-turner, an emotionally gripping and satisfying read 2 April 2013
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Pine Haven Estates, a retirement community in Fulton, North Carolina, houses a variety of older people who are served by staff members. Residents, employees and visitors are introduced to readers in descriptions so vivid that we feel as if we know them.

Joanna Lamb is a hospice volunteer who has returned to her hometown with a calling not only to assist the dying to a gentle, good death, but also to keep their memories alive by describing them in her notebook. Joanna's path to redemption has been long and bumpy, including several marriages, a near-death experience, and a final connection with her estranged father. Her best friend in Fulton is the tattooed and pierced C.J., a punk who lives above Joanna's hot dog joint with her baby boy. Joanna knows that C.J. likely would be voted the person least likely to be her best friend, yet the two women click in a tremendously satisfying way.

Resident and retired third-grade teacher Sadie Randolph is an eternal optimist who has her finger on the pulse of the town. She once taught most of the community and, in her heart, believes everyone is internally still around eight years old. Many of her former students visit her, including Ben Palmer and his sad 12-year-old daughter, Abby. Abby is awaiting and dreading the elaborate birthday party her mother is foisting on her, while grieving for the sudden loss of her adorable little dog, Dollbaby. Dollbaby has wandered before, but always has been found. All Abby wants for her birthday is the return of her pet --- although she believes a parental divorce would be another bonus (at least it would stop the incessant arguing Abby must endure). Meanwhile, she spends time in the cemetery near her home reading the gravestones and the mysterious notes she finds on them when she is not with Sadie, her best friend and mentor.

Stanley Stone was once a prominent lawyer with a lovely wife. After Martha Stone's death, Stanley became a resident at Pine Haven Estates. He is disheveled, blatantly obnoxious and profane with the other residents, and downright cruel to his gentle son Ned, who frequently visits him. Yet all is not as it appears with Stanley. Toby Tyler, one of his friends in the retirement community, manages to find humor in his actions, drawing on an empathy honed from her own life experiences.

Another resident, northerner Rachel Silverman, catches glimmers of something below Stanley Stone's crass exterior. Rachel has traveled to Fulton on a secret mission, which is partially fulfilled by her conversations within the cemetery. Meanwhile, she finds herself appalled by some of the conventions surrounding her, from the syrupy sweet tea to the racism of the detestably holier-than-thou resident Marge Walker. As a newcomer, Rachel tends to stay secluded, but soon she finds a kinship with Sadie and Toby while keeping her eye on the flirtatious yet inappropriate Stanley.

Author Jill McCorkle manages to give readers a lyrical meditation on life and death through characters so third-dimensional they could stroll right off the page. LIFE AFTER LIFE is a page-turner with a number of thought-provoking layers that linger long after the last page is devoured, making it an emotionally gripping and satisfying read. Words fail to describe how much I loved this book; I can only hope that many readers will experience it for themselves.

- Terry Miller Shannon
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Confusing, enjoyable, horrible ending 13 April 2013
By Beth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
At first, I found the book really confusing. Then, once I got the flow of it, I really enjoyed it. My father is in an assisted living facility and I've never read any other book about one. I liked the perspective about life at that stage of the game and the other characters that came in & out of the facility. But the ending! I hated it! I felt like there must have some sort of deadline so bam! It ended with what should have been the start of another novel (does the culprit ever get caught, what's the impact on other characters)
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
"Keep us close he said. Keep us alive. Don't ever let us disappear." 26 Mar 2013
By Amelia Gremelspacher - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For many of us, and end of life spent in a nursing home is one of life's dreaded outcomes. In a series of vignettes, McCorkle reveals a gentleness of spirit to be be discovered in a hospice facility. This book is kind , but not saccharine or precious. Certainly there are scenarios not to be envied. But there is one of my favorites Joanne who keeps a private notebook on each patient. There is an official day book, but Joanna's book contains the idiosyncrasies and seminal moments of each resident. Another caretaker is CJ who claims a scandalous past but raises a beloved son. Their past stories, and those of some of the residents form the backbone of the book. These two caretakers caught my mind in their own life struggles and their work at the home.

The residents of the home are in fact described in ways that allow us to meet the defining parts of themselves. It is not an easy task to discuss hospice without stooping to maudlin scenes, but I believe McCorkle does so. From experience, I know that not every resident of hospice is accorded this respect, but I think many caretakers do in fact rise to the challenge as do the staff in this novel. Although this is a point we all must reach, we tend to draw away from its telling. This book doesn't flinch away and impels in a non-melodramatic way to recognize the end of our days.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Life as illusion 29 Mar 2013
By B. Case - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Life After Life," by Jill McCorkle is an alluring, subtle, character-driven novel on the theme of life as illusion. The book revolves around Pine Haven Estates, a multi-tiered retirement community in small-town Fulton, North Carolina. Over the course of the novel, we meet a unique collection of fascinating characters. We view their past lives through their eyes as a collection of beloved memories. We also listen in on their current thoughts and witness their daily experiences. Slowly, we grasp the delicate dissonance between reality and illusion. We see life at Pine Haven--as it may be for most of us as we enter that last phase of our lives--as a perpetually morphing shadowland of life after life...mostly illusion, but necessarily so in the overall scheme of things.

McCorkle is an amazing craftsman at developing authentic characters and there are many here in this book to enjoy. That is ultimately the best reason to read this novel: to become immersed in a completely real world...to savor the magnificent richness of ordinary life. But unfortunately, there is a type of claustrophobia that descends after a reader has spent a lot of hours involved with these characters. This is a small community, in a small town, in countryside of North Carolina. Think about that before you chose to open the covers of this book. After all, you will be with these characters, in this community, for a fairly long time.

In many ways, this book could have been a masterpiece, but for me, it slipped from five to four stars for the following reasons. First, it was just too slow. Yes, it was funny and these characters were marvelously normal and delightfully quirky, but that did not make for a compelling novel. I almost gave up on it twice. Second, it often left me feeling uncomfortably claustrophobic. Third, for a book filled with an impressive array of wholly three-dimensional characters, I found it totally inexcusable that some fairly important characters--for example young Abbey's monstrous villain of a mother--were glaringly stereotypical. How could McCorkle do this? It was totally jarring, snapping me right out of the reading trance like a pistol shot. Finally, I had problems with the end; it was way too melodramatic for a book with such a serious theme.

This book is very good, but it could have been much better. McCorkle has enormous talent and much is on display here. But the book feels uneven. I wonder if McCorkle just gave up on this novel after so many years of working on it and perhaps put some parts of it together with haste.

Despite these shortcomings, I sincerely recommend "Life after Life" to those who enjoy character-driven novels as well as those who love novels that deal with weighty themes about the nature of life.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
excellent book for 328 pages 22 July 2013
By Tim Colton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jill McCorkle is a mature writer (and long-time teacher of writers), and she has a talent for describing people and places. She's also a fine storyteller. Setting a novel in a retirement community/nursing home is a definite risk, but she pulls it off remarkably well; the book doesn't have an old and tired air about it.

The first half of the book introduces and develops characters who are mostly interesting and convincing, and adding their diverse backstories as the book moves forward helps to hold attention and keeps the book from being just another story set in the small-town South. One of the characters is a hospice worker whose notebook entries describing the last hours or moments of those she helped along appear throughout the novel, but it's not a morose book. McCorkle gives us a lot to think about, both about the living and the dying.

A bit over two hundred pages in, just as I was beginning to wonder where this was all headed, the plot started turning, and the pace picked up. Unsuspected connections between characters began to appear, reasons behind actions and attitudes surfaced, and things got interesting. I eagerly read the next hundred pages.

But the ending is just awful. It's as though McCorkle broke a chunk off a cheap detective story and nailed it on the end of her otherwise fine book. She squandered a perfect setup for a spectacular collision of plot lines resulting in humiliating disaster for two distasteful characters. I can't imagine why the readers and editor who saw the work in progress didn't call her on it. I can't imagine that she didn't see it herself. The book is worth reading--I really enjoyed most of it--but the ending is a terrible disappointment. I've been angry about it for two days.
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