It’s been 17 long years since Jill McCorkle published a work of fiction, but it’s been worth the wait. McCorkle, a North Carolina native, is an Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill author. That alone establishes her as a Southern author who merits attention.
Set in the Pine Haven retirement home in Fulton, North Carolina, “Life After Life”, is narrated by Joanne Lamb, a prodigal child who returns home to make amends with her father. Joanna, a hospice volunteer at the home, tells the stories of the residents and neighbors of Pine Haven, their interactions with family, staff and other residents, and for some of them, their passing. Interspersed among the chapters are mini-biographies of the recently deceased that Joanna recorded in her journal. They aren’t obituaries, but reflections of the time Joanna spent with each of them. McCorkle has captured the voices of Pine Haven, with all their quirks and idiosyncrasies.
While McCorkle has published short stories since her last novel, it iss wonderful to have her back with a longer work. And she has promised that we will not need to wait for 17 more years for another one.
Readers note: Two short weeks after Algonquin published McCorkle’s “Life After Life: A Novel”, Kate Atkinson’s book “Life After Life: A Novel” was published by Brown. How very confusing. I was talking about the book with a friend who was also reading it, at least that is what I thought, but when we started to discuss the characters, it was clear we were not on the same page nor even in the same book. I now have a hold on “Life After Life” by Atkinson – it sounds like a winner too.