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The ninth hour
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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In this enveloping, emotionally intricate, suspenseful drama, McDermott lures readers into her latest meticulously rendered Irish American enclave, returning to early twentieth-century Brooklyn, the setting for Someone (2013). A man's suicide would have left his young, pregnant widow destitute but for the Little Sisters of the Sick Poor, who care for everyone in their parish with zestful efficiency. Annie is given a job in the convent laundry under the direction of the taciturn, secretly softhearted Sister Illuminata, while young, sweet, surprisingly worldly Sister Jeanne helps Annie care for her clever, funny daughter. Sally thrives in this immaculate basement sanctuary where stains and stinks—evidence of toil, suffering, and sin—are urgently eradicated with soap and prayers. While Annie, in spite of the convent's piety and orderliness, embraces the rampant messiness of life, even illicit love, Sally's calling to become a nun is cruelly tested on a hellish train journey into the "dirty world." Like Alice Munro, McDermott is profoundly observant and mischievously witty, a sensitive and consummate illuminator of the realization of the self, the ravages of illness and loss, and the radiance of generosity. As she considers the struggles of women, faith and inheritance, sacrifice and passion, she pays vivid tribute to the skilled and sustaining sisters, a fading social force. McDermott's extraordinary precision, compassion, and artistry are entrancing and sublime. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This is one of literary master McDermott's most exquisite works, and a national tour and concerted publicity campaign will generate avid requests. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

One of the great writers of the Irish American experience, National Book Award winner McDermott offers the story of a young immigrant in early 1900s Brooklyn who has lost his job and is being hectored by his pregnant wife. So he asserts himself the only way he knows how: he turns on his tenement's gas taps. The suicide is never discussed, yet it has an enormous impact on the victim's family and friends for generations. BEA promotion.

Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Library Journal Reviews

This seamlessly written new work from National Book Award winner McDermott (Someone) asks how much we owe others, how much we owe ourselves, and, of course, given McDermott's consistent attention to the Catholic faith, how much we owe God. Not much on any account for Irish immigrant Jim, down on his luck through his own doing, who turned on the gas in his early 1900s Brooklyn tenement and killed himself while nearly incinerating the building. He left behind pregnant wife Annie, comforted by Sister St. Saviour of the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor, who boldly bargains with God in an effort to assure the victim a proper Catholic burial. Annie secures work at the convent, helping tough-but-tender Sister Illuminata in the laundry while befriending spitfire young Sister Jeanne and raising her daughter, Sally. In the end, both Sally and Jeanne make sacrifices of conscience to assure Annie's happiness. But as we see, Michael Tierney, head of a family to which both mother and daughter are close, refused to sacrifice himself to his father's wishes. VERDICT In lucid, flowing prose, McDermott weaves her characters' stories to powerful effect. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/8/17.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

National Book Award winner McDermott (Someone) delivers an immense, brilliant novel about the limits of faith, the power of sacrifice, and the cost of forgiveness. Set in Brooklyn in the early 20th century, the story begins in tragedy as young and pregnant Annie, an Irish immigrant, returns home to her shabby tenement apartment to find her 32-year-old husband dead from intentional carbon monoxide poisoning. In order to make money, Annie takes a job doing laundry at the local convent. In turn, the nuns of the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor help Annie raise her daughter, Sally, after she is born. As Sally pushes through adolescence, the influence of the strict yet benevolent sisters and the church's teachings takes hold. At 18, Sally embarks on her own novitiate journey, accompanying Sister Lucy and bubbly Sister Jeanne to the cluttered homes and sickbeds of New York's most poor and wretched. The novel jumps around in time and spans three generations, exploring the paths of Annie, Sally, and Sally's children. But it's the thread that follows Sally's coming of age and eventual lapse of faith that is the most absorbing. Scenes detailing her benevolent encounters, especially her stint taking care of cantankerous and one-legged Mrs. Costello, are paradoxically grotesque and irresistible. As in her other novels, McDermott exhibits a keen eye for character, especially regarding the nuns (Sister Lucy, who "lived with a small, tight knot of fury at the center of her chest," is most memorable). (Sept.)

Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Author Biography

Alice McDermott is the author of seven previous novels, including After This; Child of My Heart; Charming Billy, winner of the 1998 National Book Award; At Weddings and Wakes; and Someone—all published by FSG. That Night, At Weddings and Wakes, and After This were all finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the Richard A. Macksey Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University. - (McMillan Palgrave)


A portrait of the Irish-American experience is presented through the story of an Irish immigrant's suicide and how it reverberates through innumerable lives in early 20th-century Catholic Brooklyn. By the National Book Award-winning author of Charming Billy. - (Baker & Taylor)

A portrait of the Irish-American experience is presented through the story of an Irish immigrant's suicide and how it reverberates through innumerable lives in early twentieth-century Catholic Brooklyn. - (Baker & Taylor)

Finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction
New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books of 2017
The Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Fiction 2017
The Wall Street Journal's Top 10 Novels of 2017
Time Magazine's Top 10 Novels of 2017
NPR's Best Books of 2017
Kirkus Reviews' Best Fiction & Best Historical Fiction of 2017
Library Journal's Top 10 Novels of 2017
Barnes & Noble's 25 Best Fiction Books of 2017

A magnificent new novel from one of America’s finest writersa 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 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.

- (McMillan Palgrave)

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