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This luminous piece of historical fiction is set in early 20th century Irish-Catholic Brooklyn. It is a tale of how a man’s death resonates through subsequent generations whose faith and beliefs have been shaped by their religion and superstitions. The author beautifully and non-judgmentally relates how they are doing the best they can with the lives they are given, flawed but good-intentioned, in making choices on love and vocation. Gorgeous. — Tambra Johnson Reap
“Alice McDermott's dazzling The Ninth Hour turns on the contradictions that confound our need to reconcile with mortality. The empathetic characters, at once agents and benefactors of Christian charity, grow to realize not just the grace but also the hubris of their faith. A stunning work of generational storytelling, The Ninth Hour is compulsively readable and deeply thought-provoking. McDermott is a master artisan of humanity.”
— Lori Feathers, Interabang Books, Dallas, TX
A magnificent new novel from one of America's finest writers--a powerfully affecting story spanning the twentieth century of a widow and her daughter and the nuns who serve their Irish-American community in Brooklyn.
On a dim winter afternoon, a young Irish immigrant opens the gas taps in his Brooklyn tenement. He is determined to prove--to the subway bosses who have recently fired him, to his badgering, pregnant wife--"that the hours of his life belong to himself alone." In the aftermath of the fire that follows, Sister St. Savior, an aging nun appears, unbidden, to direct the way forward for his widow and his unborn child.
We begin deep inside Catholic Brooklyn, in the early part of the twentieth century. Decorum, superstition, and shame collude to erase the man's brief existence. Yet his suicide, although never spoken of, reverberates through many lives and over the decades testing the limits and the demands of love and sacrifice, of forgiveness and forgetfulness, even through multiple generations.
The characters we meet, from Sally, the unborn baby at the beginning of the novel, who becomes the center of the story to the nuns whose personalities we come to know and love to the neighborhood families with whose lives they are entwined, are all rendered with extraordinary sympathy and McDermott's trademark lucidity and intelligence. Alice McDermott's The Ninth Hour is a crowning achievement by one of the premiere writers at work in America today.