The Ninth Hour
A magnificent new novel from one of America’s finest writers—a 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 a gas tap in his Brooklyn tenement. He is determined to prove—to the subway bosses who have recently fired him, to his badgering, pregnant wife—that “the hours of his life . . . belonged to himself alone.” In the aftermath of the fire that follows, Sister St. Saviour, an aging nun, a Little Nursing Sister of the Sick Poor, appears, unbidden, to direct the way forward for his widow and his unborn child.
In Catholic Brooklyn in the early part of the twentieth century, decorum, superstition, and shame collude to erase the man’s brief existence, and yet his suicide, though never spoken of, reverberates through many lives—testing the limits and the demands of love and sacrifice, of forgiveness and forgetfulness, even through multiple generations. Rendered with remarkable delicacy, heart, and intelligence, Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour is a crowning achievement of one of the finest American writers at work today.
"Grace and gumption...The Ninth Hour is a story with the simple grace of a votive candle in a dark church."
"The Ninth Hour, like Colm Toíbín's Brooklyn, evokes a narrowly confined, simpler, largely bygone world. But McDermott also addresses big, universal questions — about what constitutes a good life, and about how to live with the knowledge of "that stillness, that inconsequence, that feral smell of death." Her novel encompasses base hungers, sin, guilt, reparations, secrets, and depression — so little understood at the time. And more: The Ninth Hour is also about love, both forbidden and sanctioned, albeit with the caveat that "Love's a tonic ... not a cure." This enveloping novel, too, is a tonic, if not a cure."
"Tour de force...[Alice McDermott] reminds us of the pleasures of literary fiction and its power to illuminate lives and worlds...McDermott is a virtuoso of language and image, allusion and reflection, reference and symbol....McDermott once again demonstrates her expansively attentive literary care and its quiet power."
—The Boston Globe
"Ms. McDermott has once again managed a marvelous literary feat..."
—Maureen Corrigan, The Wall Street Journal
"Superb and masterful...There are so many ways to read this beautiful novel: as a Greek tragedy with its narrative chorus and the sins of the fathers; as a Faulknerian tale out to prove once more that the “past is not even past”; as a gothic tale wrestling with faith, punishment and redemption à la Flannery O’Connor; or as an Irish novel in the tradition of Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín, whose sentences, like hers, burn on the page. But “The Ninth Hour” is also a love story, told at a languid, desultory pace and fulfilled most satisfyingly at the end."
—Lily King, The Washington Post
"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."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"In this enveloping, emotionally intricate, suspenseful drama, McDermott lures readers into her latest meticulously rendered Irish American enclave...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... McDermott’s extraordinary precision, compassion, and artistry are entrancing and sublime...This is one of literary master McDermott’s most exquisite works."
―Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred review
"“Everything that her readers, the National Book Award committee, and the Pulitzer Prize judges love about McDermott’s stories of Irish-Catholic American life is back.”
―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“This seamlessly written new work from National Book Award winner McDermott asks how much we owe others, how much we owe ourselves, and, of course, McDermott’s consistent attention to the Catholic faith, how much we owe God...In lucid, flowing prose, McDermott weaves her character’ stories to powerful effect. Highly recommended.”
―Library Journal, starred review
“National Book Award winner McDermott is simply one of the finest living Catholic writers, and her new novel looks to capture the spirit of her previous work: families and cultures strained by the optimism of faith tempered by the suffering of reality...A generational novel sure to appeal to longtime McDermott fans, and to bring-in new readers as well.”
—The Millions’s Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2017 Book Preview
"The National Book Award winner delivers another exquisite novel in which those who at first appear unremarkable—in this case, nuns in early-20th-century Brooklyn—are revealed as heroines, unflinching in their devotion to the flawed humans around them."
—O, The Oprah Magazine
"Alice McDermott has once again delivered a novel to ponder and cherish, from its moral quandaries down to its wry humor and hypnotic prose."