Life After Life centers around the residents of a retirement home; hospice worker Joanna; single mom C.J., who cuts hair and does manicures at the home; and Abby, a young girl who finds friends among the residents of the retirement home. Along with chapters from the perspective of the many characters, McCorkle develops the story through Joanna's notes on the patients who have died in her care, plus a recounting of the last thoughts of each of those patients.
The characters have a variety of commonplace problems, though the older folks seem to approach them in more creative ways. Sadie helps people realize their dreams by creating collage images in which people's images appear in places they wished to visit or doing things they wanted to try. Retired lawyer Rachel moves from New York to North Carolina to find out about the life of her married lover, long-since-dead but still adored. Stanley, another retired attorney, decides to act like a crass buffoon so his son will break ties and remake a life that badly needs rethinking. Meanwhile, the younger people pursue dead-end relationships and make decisions with bad results for themselves and others. The book's ending is ambiguous--perhaps realistic in that real people's lives aren't neatly tied up with bows, but somewhat unsatisfying nonetheless.
The stories of the elderly characters and of Joanna's work as a hospice worker are, perhaps unexpectedly, life-affirming. On the other hand, the stories of C.J. and Abby's parents are disturbing in that despicable or misguided adults make decisions with profoundly negative effects, particularly for the children. The darkness is only alleviated by the fact that Abby's mother and her lover are such hideous people that they don't seem real. The book's ending is ambiguous--perhaps realistic in that real people's lives aren't neatly tied up with bows, but somewhat unsatisfying nonetheless. Overall, Ican't recommend the book even though I liked some parts of it.
People marry to change class, geography, luck, but when they stretch out at the end fo the day, it's still the same heavy hearts thudding along at their centers.
Sometimes you just have to believe that love is love and accept that it manifests in many different ways. Accept the great fortune of seeing it at all.