A good family saga weaves together the stories of multiple generations of distinctly different but connected characters. In Life after Life, the family is not the Forsytes, the Snopes, or the Corleones, but the residents and staff of Pine Haven, a retirement community in Fulton, North Carolina. Pine Haven is the current home of a number of long-time Fulton residents including Lois Flowers, the local fashion plate; Marge Walker, the hyper-judgmental widow of a local judge; Stanley Stone, a retired attorney; and Sadie Randolph, who was widowed young and went on to become a beloved teacher. But Pine Haven has attracted some outsiders too, including Toby Tyler, a retired teacher who drifted up from South Carolina and Rachel Silverman, a lawyer from Massachusetts (pronounced MassaTOOsetts by the locals) who choose Pine Haven for a very private reason. People like Sadie are friendly with everyone, but Marge and Stanley (who is faking dementia) stir up some trouble. Marge can be quite critical of C.J., the young woman who serves at the beautician for the residents. C.J. is an easy target, with her piercings, tattoos, and her odd clothing. And Marge doesn’t even know about how C.J. earned money before she had her baby, Kurt.
Joanna, the hospice worker, knows a bit about C.J’s life, but her heart is open to C.J. and her baby. Joanna, a local who went away and then came back, has her own past which is a ready topic for Marge and Stanley when no better subject is at hand. The intervention of a large dog saved her life and the dog’s wise owner helped Joanna find a way past her sadness to a meaningful life.
Joanna tends both the dying and the living–even Abby, a young girl who lives nearby and who is a regular visitor at Pine Haven. Abby’s father is a childhood friend of Joanna’s and her mother is a mean, shallow person who every reader will root against. The lives of Abby and her parents intersect with those of the Pine Haven characters in surprising ways. This is a novel of revelations and unexpected connections. Life after Life is a book in McCorkle’s characteristic style–there is sadness, humor, and wry acceptance of the muddle that people can make of their lives.
Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill catalog.