After This

Alice McDermott, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $24 (279p) ISBN 978-0-374-16809-4

A master at capturing Irish-Catholic American suburban life, particularly in That Night (1987) and the National Book Award–winning Charming Billy (1998), McDermott returns for this sixth novel with the Keane family of Long Island, who get swept up in the wake of the Vietnam War. When John and Mary Keane marry shortly after WWII, she's on the verge of spinsterhood, and he's a vet haunted by the death of a young private in his platoon. Jacob, their first-born, is given the dead soldier's name, an omen that will haunt the family when Jacob is killed in Vietnam (hauntingly underplayed by McDermott). In vignette-like chapters, some of which are stunning set pieces, McDermott probes the remaining family's inner lives. Catholic faith and Irish heritage anchor John and Mary's feelings, but their children experience their generation's doubt, rebellion and loss of innocence: next eldest Michael, who had always dominated Jacob, drowns his guilt and regret in sex and drugs; Anne quits college and moves to London with a lover; Clare, a high school senior, gets pregnant. The story of '60s and '70s suburbia has been told before, and McDermott has little to say about the Vietnam War itself. But she flawlessly encapsulates an era in the private moments of one family's life. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/19/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
Paperback - 279 pages - 978-0-7475-9321-8
Compact Disc - 978-1-59397-967-6
Hardcover - 450 pages - 978-1-59722-375-1
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Paperback - 277 pages - 978-0-385-33469-3
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