April 2013 Books

Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

5 of 16
Life After Life
352 pages; A Shannon Ravenel Book
Who knew death, regret, and lengthy ruminations about days past could add up to a novel this vibrant, hopeful, and compelling? Jill McCorkle;s gorgeously written Life After Life (Algonquin) unfolds through the alternating perspectives of the folks at Pine Haven Retirement Facility and residents of the North Carolina town in which it's located. Among them the groups moral center, Sadie, as beloved by her fellow seniors as she was by the third graders she taught for 40 years; Rachel, a widowed, retired lawyer still yearning for her adulterous lover of decades earlier; and Stanley, who feigns dementia to avoid living with his son. They're joined by Joanna, a formerly suicidal hospice volunteer, and C.J., a single mother prone to tragically screwed-up relationships with men, who works in the center's beauty salon. In this ambitious novel of multiple, intersecting stories, the unifying theme is nothing less than mortality itself. But McCorkle's greatest gift is in illuminating the countless tiny moments that make up our time on Earth. "We live days and weeks and months and years with so little awareness of life.... But every now and then, on the most average day, it occurs to you that this is it. This is all there is."
— Karen Holt