Book Review: The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott
Updated: Jan 13, 2019
A haphazard, unfocused tale. I expected so much more from this author.
I found this book a dismal disappointment. I expected so much more from Alice McDermott. The book was haphazard, the scenes redundant, and the character point-of-view flipped back and forth between so many characters I had no idea who the “main” character was. Even the plot twist/reveal at the end was weak and didn’t reward me for investing the time to read the whole novel. I was especially confounded by the repetitive phrasing and the same scenes and conversations being replayed multiple times through the book. Not artfully from different perspectives, just the same stuff rehashed.
The first chapter had me engaged; we saw into the psyche of a man who decides to take his own life and leaves behind a young, pregnant wife. I’m hooked. I think I know where the story is going, but when I’ve read a quarter of the book, I’m unsure who the main character is. We see the young widow, Annie, float in and out of the scenes, but very rarely from her perspective. There are a string of Sisters marching through the story, but their involvement and point-of-views seem haphazard. Maybe the daughter, Sally, is the focus? But rather than watch Sally’s progression from an infant up through the years, she is shown in snippets at various, nonconsecutive ages, making it hard to get a feel for her character. Okay, I’ll be patient and keep reading.
Sadly, by the half-way point, there is still no clear character development or plot. By three-quarters, I think I know the focus of the book and have finally discovered the main character (Eureka! I’ve got it!), but then that character dies off and disappears, almost without notice, like a whiff of smoke drifting out an open window. In comes new characters I care nothing about, and the book ends without an end.
The descriptions within the scenes and the emotions shown by the characters were entertaining, realistic and interesting in themselves, but unfortunately did not work together well enough to build a sustainable plot.
Even saying all this, I would read Alice McDermott’s next novel to give myself one more chance to fall back in love with her, solely based on her past reputation.