by Julie HaleNovember, 2007
The National Book Award-winning author returns with a poignant novel her sixth about an Irish-Catholic family struggling to deal with the after-effects of the Vietnam War. When John and Mary Keane of Long Island lose Jacob, their oldest son, in the conflict, their lives are forever altered. While the two are able to cope with their grief thanks to their deep-rooted Catholicism, their children react in ways that reflect the generation gap of the era. As she shows how the loss affects the Keanes' other children, McDermott a virtuoso when it comes to presenting the inner lives of her characters creates rich, well-rounded portraits of the three remaining siblings. The Keanes' son, Michael, turns to drugs and sex. Their two daughters, also overwhelmed by the loss, take different paths: Anne drops out of college and moves to Europe, while Clare, still in high school, gets pregnant. McDermott skillfully uses flashbacks to fill in the family's history, telling the story of John and Mary's courtship after World War II, when he was a veteran, and she had given up hope of ever marrying. Spanning several decades, this provocative novel unfolds in brief, tightly focused chapters that give the book a sharp emotional edge. McDermott has crafted a moving chronicle of a family shattered by war a book that's timely, wise and beautifully written. A reading group guide is available online at www.bantamdell.com.