The Ninth Hour

Farrar. Sept. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9780374280147. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374712174. F
OrangeReviewStarThis 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.]
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