cover image After This

After This

Alice McDermott. MacMillan Audio, $39.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-59397-967-6

Plimpton's dark, rich voice and wry wit make her a fine choice for interpreting the stark realism of McDermott's latest character study. Set mostly in the 1960s and '70s in Catholic Long Island, the novel tests the troubled waters stirred by the sexual revolution and the Vietnam War. The challenge of this kind of narration is that McDermott's characters never speak the depths that are inside them. While they may be thinking about how desperately they love their children or how cruelly life can lash out at the innocent, what they speak are quotidian platitudes about the weather or the passage of time. Plimpton handles such reticence with aplomb, teasing out the underlying meanings of McDermott's carefully constructed tableaux. While Plimpton deals handily with the working-class Brooklyn and Long Island accents that comprise the bulk of the cast of characters, her renderings of the British elites that Annie encounters on her year abroad sound a bit stilted. She is much more at ease with the rough-and-tumble Midlands bloke Annie eventually hooks up with. Overall, this is a strong performance of a subtle and complex piece of writing. Simultaneous release with the FSG hardcover (Reviews, June 19).