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 the gas taps 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 belong to himself alone.” In the aftermath of the fire that follows, Sister St. Savior, an aging nun, appears, unbidden, to direct the way forward for his widow and his unborn child.We begin deep inside Catholic Brooklyn, in the early part of the twentieth century. Decorum, superstition, and shame collude to erase the man’s brief existence. Yet his suicide, although never spoken of, reverberates through many lives and over the decades—testing the limits and the demands of love and sacrifice, of forgiveness and forgetfulness, even through multiple generations.The characters we meet, from Sally, the unborn baby at the beginning of the novel, who becomes the center of the story, to the nuns whose personalities we come to know and love, to the neighborhood families with whose lives they are entwined, are all rendered with extraordinary sympathy and McDermott’s trademark lucidity and intelligence.Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour is a crowning achievement by one of the premiere writers at work in America today.

The Ninth Hour Details

TitleThe Ninth Hour
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 19th, 2017
PublisherFarrar Straus and Giroux
ISBN-139780374280147
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Religion

The Ninth Hour Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    Alice McDermott is one of my very favorite writers. I found in her new novel the same subtle, quiet storytelling with simple prose, descriptions that defy you to stay in your present place and send you to this place, this Catholic, Irish-American Brooklyn in the early twentieth century. She invites you through her ordinary characters living their everyday lives in spite of their flaws, to see the extraordinary things of our humanity. This is a story of a family beginning with life before Sally i Alice McDermott is one of my very favorite writers. I found in her new novel the same subtle, quiet storytelling with simple prose, descriptions that defy you to stay in your present place and send you to this place, this Catholic, Irish-American Brooklyn in the early twentieth century. She invites you through her ordinary characters living their everyday lives in spite of their flaws, to see the extraordinary things of our humanity. This is a story of a family beginning with life before Sally is born to Anne and narrated by Sally's children. It begins with the fate of Sally's father as he commits suicide and the nuns enter their lives . In a time when the nuns cared for the poor and the sick and the orphans and then taking under their wings a widow and her infant daughter even before she is born. They will impact Anne and Sally throughout their lives. So this is a story as much about these nuns as it is about this family. The Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor - Sister St. Saviour, Sister Illuminata, Sister Jeanne , Sister Lucy - I couldn't help but love these nuns. I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school so found a real affinity to them. There was something about being near to them that made you want to be like them so it was understandable to me why Sally as a young woman thinks she wants to join the convent. Is this about the Catholic Church? Sure in some ways. Is it about people's relationship with God? Sure in some ways. But it's also about life , so of course there is death . It's about family, not just mothers and fathers and children but about how those who care for each other are family and so it is about love. I enjoyed this as much as I have several of McDermott's novels because she has such command of the language and it through the simplicity of her prose that she gives us these beautiful stories. Highly recommended to any McDermott fan and to anyone else who hasn't read her work - she's an amazing talent.
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  • Annet
    January 1, 1970
    But it was at this hour, when the sun was a humming gold at the horizon, or a pale peach, or even just, as now, a gray pearl, that she felt the breath of God warm on her neck. It was at this hour that the whole city smelled to her like the inside of a cathedral - damp stone and cold water and candle wax - and the sound of her steps on the sidewalk and over the five cross streets made her think of a priest approaching the alter in shined shoes. Or of a bridegroom, perhaps, out of one of the roman But it was at this hour, when the sun was a humming gold at the horizon, or a pale peach, or even just, as now, a gray pearl, that she felt the breath of God warm on her neck. It was at this hour that the whole city smelled to her like the inside of a cathedral - damp stone and cold water and candle wax - and the sound of her steps on the sidewalk and over the five cross streets made her think of a priest approaching the alter in shined shoes. Or of a bridegroom, perhaps, out of one of the romances she had read as a girl, all love and anticipation...Impressive...Rather dark and rather hopeful. And oh.... those Sisters... need to read more of this author. On a gloomy February afternoon in Brooklyn, Jim sends his wife Annie out to do the shopping before dark falls. He seals their meagre apartment, unhooks the gas tube inside the oven and inhales...Sister St. Saviour, a Little Nursing Sister of the Sick Poor, catches the scent of fire foused with water and hurries to the scene: a gathered crowd, firemen, and a distraught young widow. Moved by the girl's plight, and her unborn child, the nun finds Annie work in the convent's laundry - where, in turn, her daughter Sally will grow up.... Not a happy story...rather grim actually, but beautifully told. Beautiful insights too into the lives and thoughts of a number of nuns in the convent, who guide and guard Annie and Sally. About McDermott's prose: "Her endearing details and graceful sentences value the ordinary confusions of day-to-day lives" (Times Literary Supplement).
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    I absolutely adore this author, and have been waiting for a few years for this her next offering. Her novels aren't suspense filled, no thrill a minute, no car chases or knife wielding psychopaths, just slices of life in all it's messy permutations. Early twentieth century, Brooklyn, a neighborhood of Irish Catholics during a time period when most medical care was performed by nuns, in this case the Little Nursing Sisters of the sick poor, the only recourse for those who cannot afford a physicia I absolutely adore this author, and have been waiting for a few years for this her next offering. Her novels aren't suspense filled, no thrill a minute, no car chases or knife wielding psychopaths, just slices of life in all it's messy permutations. Early twentieth century, Brooklyn, a neighborhood of Irish Catholics during a time period when most medical care was performed by nuns, in this case the Little Nursing Sisters of the sick poor, the only recourse for those who cannot afford a physician. A young man commits suicide, leaving a young pregnant wife, enter Sister St. Savior who will be this woman's guardian angel. Providing her with a job in the convention laundry as well as finding her needed baby things and even a new friend with children of her own. Sally is born and is raised with the help of the good sisters in the convent laundry. We come to know some of these sisters, travel with them as they visit the elderly, and the ill in their homes. The sisters very much present in the lives of these families. We watch as a young woman struggles with a decision regarding her vocation and her mother tries to find a new path to happiness, one in which the sisters very much disapprove. In a unique twist we also hear from voices from the future about forthcoming events, second and third generations. A wonderfully told story about a time long past, about love and morals and the many places and times these same crcumstances repeat. McDermott's novels are so realistic, her writing simple but heartfelt, her characters flawed but for the most part good intentioned. People just doing the best they can in the lives they find themselves and in the paths they have chosen whether this is married life or a life dedicated to the church. Struggling with many of the same things we struggle with today.If you enjoy Call of the Midwives I think you will enjoy this.ARC from Netgalley.
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    "Fairness demanded that grief should find succor, that wounds should heal, insult and confusion find recompense and certainty, that every living person God had made should not, willy-nilly, be forever unmade."And when the suffocating weight of despair visits upon the souls of the hopeless, choices will fit into the maze of forever. Jim sends his young wife, Annie, out the door of their delapitated Brooklyn tenement in order to do the weekly shopping. The turn of that knob clicks off something wi "Fairness demanded that grief should find succor, that wounds should heal, insult and confusion find recompense and certainty, that every living person God had made should not, willy-nilly, be forever unmade."And when the suffocating weight of despair visits upon the souls of the hopeless, choices will fit into the maze of forever. Jim sends his young wife, Annie, out the door of their delapitated Brooklyn tenement in order to do the weekly shopping. The turn of that knob clicks off something within him. Like the closing of this door, Jim chooses to shutter any ray of light remaining in his self-perceived worthless life. He turns the switch slowly on the gas stove and snuffs out the future in a single gesture. The lives of Annie and his unborn child will be chiseled with anguish and desperation.But when sorrow visits the doorsteps of these tenements, it ushers in the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor. The bend and the turn of the 20th Century reveals the fate of the recent immigrants and the destitute who live on the streets of Brooklyn. We will come to know Alice McDermott's chosen characters who reveal a stamina and a resilience reflecting life choices that will leave a darkening stain upon themselves and those who follow in the future. "She saw how the skim of filth, which was despair, which was hopelessness, fell like soot on the lives of the poor."Annie is offered an opportunity to work in the convent's basement laundry. The labor is hard, but Annie has her little daughter, Sally, in a basket by her side and is able to stay in her apartment. We will focus on these two characters who were handed the roughest end of the stick. It will be Sally's future that will turn the wheels on this brilliant novel.Alice McDermott crafts this novel with words hitting bone upon bone. Lives are complicated. Period. Nothing fits perfectly into boxes labeled good and bad. And does fate seal the deal? McDermott hones her characters with the uneven curves of simple humanity. She has been given a fine talent for allowing the readers to feel, to the core, every profound action within these pages. This will be a novel that you won't be forgetting any time soon. A Brooklyn Guarantee.
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  • Jen
    January 1, 1970
    I went into this blind - having only skimmed over some reviews but trusting my GR friend's high ratings.So, little did I know that as dark as this starts off and moments during, McDermott's prose rubs off like a balm for both the spirit and the soul.It starts with a suicide in the early 20th century. The darkness just before death and that which immediately follows. Nuns are brought in to help those grieving; those dying.This is mostly Sally's story -the path her life took after her father commi I went into this blind - having only skimmed over some reviews but trusting my GR friend's high ratings.So, little did I know that as dark as this starts off and moments during, McDermott's prose rubs off like a balm for both the spirit and the soul.It starts with a suicide in the early 20th century. The darkness just before death and that which immediately follows. Nuns are brought in to help those grieving; those dying.This is mostly Sally's story -the path her life took after her father committed suicide leaving her mother pregnant with her.How the nuns stepped in and provided her with a job to help sustain both. Sally's early years in the convent while her mother worked; The relationships that developed and the decision to take the habit, become a nurse and take on a calling to help others in their time of need. However, things take a turn early on in her journey and things she thought clear, became muddled. But the nuns never waivered- or when they did, they did so with the best intentions. Loved the way McDermott tells a story - what starts in one direction turns you around on your head in a completely different one. I didn't know until the very end how much I took to the one nun, Jeannie.Did I love this? Close, but no cigar. It took me quite a few pages to get into and I wasn't sure of the nun angle (growing up in the catholic school system, nuns were already a dying vocation. The closest I got to them - sadly, but with much joy- were The Trouble with Angels and its sequel. I love me a Hayley Mills film). Overall, it was worthy read and I will definitely check out her other works. 4⭐️
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  • Dem
    January 1, 1970
    The Ninth Hour a story by Alice McDermott is well written vivid and an interesting insight into 20th Century Irish Catholic Brooklyn and while I found the book well written prose wise I did find the novel quite disjointed and at times difficult to follow. The Story starts out quite strong with Jim a young Irish immigrant recently fired from his job as a subway motorman takes his own life in the Brooklyn apartment he rents with his pregnant wife Annie. Sister St. Saviour from the Little Nursing S The Ninth Hour a story by Alice McDermott is well written vivid and an interesting insight into 20th Century Irish Catholic Brooklyn and while I found the book well written prose wise I did find the novel quite disjointed and at times difficult to follow. The Story starts out quite strong with Jim a young Irish immigrant recently fired from his job as a subway motorman takes his own life in the Brooklyn apartment he rents with his pregnant wife Annie. Sister St. Saviour from the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick appears on the scene and takes the young widow under her wing.The life of the Little Nursing Sisters was to go out in the very Catholic Brooklyn community and nurse those who were sick or suffering and I found this really interesting and informative in the book. Their nursing went far and beyond what was normal duties for a nurse as the sisters would also cook, clean, take in laundry, provide company, and sustenance for people in need. The sisters contributed immensely to the community they worked in and it was nice to see that portrayed in this story as there are many wonderful caring nuns who dedicate and have dedicated their lives to the poor and suffering.There is much to like about this novel and I could possibly rate the writing 5 star as the scenes were vivid and so well written and yet the book dragged for me and became a little bit of a chore. I liked the characters and yet I never felt I got to know them or connected with them. A short novel and yet a book that became a long read and therefore a 3 star rating from me.
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  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    “It was a dark and dank day altogether: cold spitting rain in the morning and a low, steel gray sky the rest of the afternoon.” Two weeks ago, Jim was working as a trainman for the BRT. But he felt he should be the master of his own time, and so he took that liberty, so convinced was he of his inalienable right to refuse the constraints of time. “Sometimes just the pleasure of being an hour or two late was enough to remind him that he, at least, was his own man, that the hours of his life—and “It was a dark and dank day altogether: cold spitting rain in the morning and a low, steel gray sky the rest of the afternoon.” Two weeks ago, Jim was working as a trainman for the BRT. But he felt he should be the master of his own time, and so he took that liberty, so convinced was he of his inalienable right to refuse the constraints of time. “Sometimes just the pleasure of being an hour or two late was enough to remind him that he, at least, was his own man, that the hours of his life—and what more precious commodity did he own? —belonged to himself alone.” And so, he was discharged from his job, they claimed he was unreliable and defiant, unwilling to follow the rules.His wife, Annie, cried when he shared his news, and then she shared hers: there was a baby on the way. Jim had sent his wife to do the shopping at four, so she would be back before dark. That would give him enough time to prepare and finish his plan.On the streets below, Sister St. Saviour, a Little Nursing Sister of the Sick Poor was on her way back to the convent after collecting alms for the poor in her basket. Despite the needs of her body, she is drawn to another building on the way, feeling called there. ”Despair had weighted the day. God Himself was helpless against it—Sister St. Saviour believed this. She believed that God held His head in His hands all the while a young man in the apartment above slipped off this gray life—collar and yoke—not for lack of love, but for the utter inability to go on, to climb, once again, out of the depths of a cold February day, a dark and waning afternoon. God wept, she believed this, even as she had gotten off her chair in the lobby of Woolworth’s an hour before her usual time, had turned onto the street where there was a fire truck, a dispersing crowd, the lamplight caught in shallow puddles, even as she had climbed the stone steps—footsore and weary and needing a toilet, but going up anyway, although no one had sent for her.” Ordinary people, mistakes are made, their flaws are shown, but never flaunted. There’s a subtle, gentle, delicate approach to this story that sometimes made me feel as though it was being told in a whisper – but not as a secret. More as if to imbue a sense of reverence for these people, their humble lives, an aura of “there but for the grace of God go I.” These nuns embrace them as a part of their family, Sister Saviour, Sister Illuminata, Sister Jeanne, Sister Lucy become as much a part of Sally’s life as if they were family. She sees their kindness, their desire to help others, their inner strength and their calm. Eventually, she decides she wants to be like them, to be one of them. While this is a religious setting beginning in the early days of the 20th century, partially set in a convent, with Irish-Catholic characters in an Irish-Catholic Brooklyn neighborhood, there is more about the way of life in caring for those in need, lending aid to the indigent and needy, and very little beyond the basic concept of showing love to God by giving love to, and trying to help eliminate the suffering of, our fellow man.This is the first Alice McDermott book I’ve read, but it won’t be my last. I loved her simple prose that contains such a sense of grace; it feels almost like a prayer for more kindness in the world.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 from me for this book written by an author whose work I have never read before. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the writing!This book starts off with the suicide of a man who leaves behind a pregnant wife. The story is a coming of age story of the girl born to this woman, much of their time spent inside an Irish Catholic convent in Brooklyn, with The Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor. The Ninth Hour is the afternoon hour of prayer.Illness, loss, faith and sacrifice are running theme 4.5 from me for this book written by an author whose work I have never read before. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the writing!This book starts off with the suicide of a man who leaves behind a pregnant wife. The story is a coming of age story of the girl born to this woman, much of their time spent inside an Irish Catholic convent in Brooklyn, with The Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor. The Ninth Hour is the afternoon hour of prayer.Illness, loss, faith and sacrifice are running themes in this story.
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  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    Wow....so this was kinda A M A Z I N G........Beginning with a grim suicide - this book grabs our heart and won’t let go. The Jewish religion shared something in common with the Irish Catholic in the early 1900’s — there was a stigma - a dire sin - against a proper burial for those who committed suicide. I know things have changed since then in the Jewish religion- but I don’t know about the Irish Catholic today. However — in this story at the start of the 20th century— when Annie’s husband take Wow....so this was kinda A M A Z I N G........Beginning with a grim suicide - this book grabs our heart and won’t let go. The Jewish religion shared something in common with the Irish Catholic in the early 1900’s — there was a stigma - a dire sin - against a proper burial for those who committed suicide. I know things have changed since then in the Jewish religion- but I don’t know about the Irish Catholic today. However — in this story at the start of the 20th century— when Annie’s husband takes his life - and pregnant with his child - it’s one of the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor, Sister St. Saviour who takes her in. After Annie delivers her child - the infant named Sally is baptized. This story is so beautifully written —weaved around the life of Sally --and stories of the Civil War to the present day. Death, dying, grief, struggles, and sin are explored —while principles and faith and forgiveness are too. It’s incredible how much is packed into this slim book. So much beauty - thought - compassion - and wisdom. The writing is outstanding. Alice McDermott’s portrayal of the sisters was a deserving tribute to nuns for the service they do....in taking care of the sick, disabled, and impoverished. A Magnificent treasure!
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  • Perry
    January 1, 1970
    My Best Novel of 2017, and a New All-Time FavoriteIn the middle of something at work, I will not have time to put into writing a full review until the weekend. Yet, I'm bursting to rave about this novel and recommend it as a must. The book is named for the hour of afternoon prayer, and God is a prevalent presence. Yet, this parochial novel's reach is as universal as Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, and Joyce's Dubliners. I'd rank it with these books in terms of how it evoked a time and pla My Best Novel of 2017, and a New All-Time FavoriteIn the middle of something at work, I will not have time to put into writing a full review until the weekend. Yet, I'm bursting to rave about this novel and recommend it as a must. The book is named for the hour of afternoon prayer, and God is a prevalent presence. Yet, this parochial novel's reach is as universal as Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, and Joyce's Dubliners. I'd rank it with these books in terms of how it evoked a time and place (here, a bygone Brooklyn) and seemingly irreconcilable moral conflicts, and the way it stirred my soul.For the moment, I'll rely on a few short words of two reviewers whose rave reviews convinced me to read this novel:Lily King, The Washington Post: "superb and masterful...[t]here 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 a 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 [it's] also a love story, told at a languid, desultory pace and fulfilled most satisfyingly at the end."Rebecca Steinitz, The Boston Globe: "[McDermott] reminds us of the pleasures of literary fiction and its power to illuminate lives and worlds.... [she] is a virtuoso of language and image, allusion and reflection, reference and symbol...."
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  • Diane Barnes
    January 1, 1970
    Oh, how I loved these nuns! The Little Sisters of the Sick Poor, spending their lives nursing and providing for the needs of poor people in turn of the century Brooklyn, NY. It wasn't easy, but they did what they could, given the bounds of the Catholic Church, the Priests, lack of money, and human nature. Of course, that meant that sometimes rules had to be broken.Sister St. Savior has no problem with this. She even has a ledger where she keeps a list of the sins she committed in her quest to gi Oh, how I loved these nuns! The Little Sisters of the Sick Poor, spending their lives nursing and providing for the needs of poor people in turn of the century Brooklyn, NY. It wasn't easy, but they did what they could, given the bounds of the Catholic Church, the Priests, lack of money, and human nature. Of course, that meant that sometimes rules had to be broken.Sister St. Savior has no problem with this. She even has a ledger where she keeps a list of the sins she committed in her quest to give aid and succor. "Hold it against the good I've done, she prayed. We'll sort it out when I see you." How to do what you know is right, and best, when it contradicts the rules of God? God can be awfully slow sometimes, while people suffer waiting for him to make up his mind. Keeping your mouth shut, when you know certain things, is one way around it. Actively participating in some practices gets a little trickier, but absolution and atonement can help with that. Do what you can to make lives better, because maybe God doesn't see, or care, the way you do.Sister Jeanne, Sister Immaculata, Sister Lucy, are the nuns we get to know here, along with Annie and her daughter Sally, who are direct beneficiaries of their goodness. The writing style is quiet and hushed, no earth shattering events. Life and death are dealt with matter-of- factly, things happen, life goes on. As it does outside of novels.I love Alice McDermott, and have never read a bad novel by her. There is always a first time, I suppose, but not this time. Excellent by my standards in every way, "The Ninth Hour" goes on my favorites list.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    The Ninth HourAlice McDermottA dark, thought-provoking and moving story about an Irish immigrant family and a community of nuns who thanklessly care for the sick and the poor. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ SUMMARYLate one winter afternoon, Jim ushered his wife out the door to do some shopping. After she leaves, this Irish immigrant subway worker blocked the door, covered the windows and opened up the gas taps in their Brooklyn tenement. His suicide would forever alter the lives of his wife, Annie, and his unborn daught The Ninth HourAlice McDermottA dark, thought-provoking and moving story about an Irish immigrant family and a community of nuns who thanklessly care for the sick and the poor. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ SUMMARYLate one winter afternoon, Jim ushered his wife out the door to do some shopping. After she leaves, this Irish immigrant subway worker blocked the door, covered the windows and opened up the gas taps in their Brooklyn tenement. His suicide would forever alter the lives of his wife, Annie, and his unborn daughter, Sally. Despite being aided and shepherded by a community of nursing nuns, Annie and Sally struggle with life decisions and their moral compass in years following Jim’s death. The story is narrated by one of Sally’s children, with the focus on Sally’s life, as well as the lives and works of the nuns who administer to the need of the Brooklyn Irish immigrant community. “Fairness demanded that grief should find succor, that wounds should heal, insults and confusion find recompense and certainty, that every living person God has made should not, willy-nilly, be forever unmade.”REVIEWThe Ninth Hour is the time for afternoon prayers for the nursing nuns. It’s a time to ask for God’s mercy for the ills and sins of their community. Annie and Sallie needed the nuns prayers, as did so many others in their Brooklyn neighborhood. Set in the first half of the twentieth century, THE NINTH HOUR is dark and affecting. The prose was masterfully descriptive, evocative and emotional. The detailed descriptions of the grim aspects of illnesses and death that the nuns experienced, among the poor were gritty. One of the most poignant chapters in the book was innocent Sally’s dramatic train trip to Chicago. She was going to Chicago to join a convent, but the shocking experiences with the coarse people she encountered on the train caused her to change her mind. She immediately returned to Brooklyn, only to find that things had changed there in her brief absence. The characters were complex and plentiful. Issues of death, depression, sin, reparations, secrets and guilt are explored. Lovers of dark and affecting literary fiction will appreciate THE NINTH HOUR. This is McDermott’s eight novel. She has received The National Book (2017), the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction (2018), and the Kirkus Prize for Fiction ( 2017), for this book. Publisher Farrah Straus and GirouxPublication Date September 19, 2017 Narrated Euan Morton“She saw how the skim of filth, which was despair, which was hopelessness, fell like soot on the lives of the poor.”Check out more reviews at www.bluestockingreviews.com
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  • Jeanette
    January 1, 1970
    Perfect. Alice McDermott captures it exactly. Been there, done that. St. Thomas More parish 1948-1966 predominately Irish-Americans. Sisters of Mercy in Chicago where Sally was heading. Novitiate / Mother McAuley H.S. This is the first novel I've ever read that even begins to capture my Chicago neighborhood- it's tone especially. Although most women had TWICE as many kids as Mrs. Tierney and nearly every family had a elder stuck up in the loft spaces. All of the characters were finely drawn to a Perfect. Alice McDermott captures it exactly. Been there, done that. St. Thomas More parish 1948-1966 predominately Irish-Americans. Sisters of Mercy in Chicago where Sally was heading. Novitiate / Mother McAuley H.S. This is the first novel I've ever read that even begins to capture my Chicago neighborhood- it's tone especially. Although most women had TWICE as many kids as Mrs. Tierney and nearly every family had a elder stuck up in the loft spaces. All of the characters were finely drawn to an extent that is rarely accomplished within fiction prose. Perfect for the period, perfect for the tone, perfect for the context of worldview. Fully as good as her last book and I'll read all she writes.Loved it. Especially the train ride parts. Oh did it bring back memories!
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    During this cynical point of time when the words “sacrifice” and “service” have become quaint and puzzling, The Ninth Hour seems a bit of an anachronism or at the very least, historical curiosity.Alice McDermott, however, in exquisite prose, captures the world of early twentieth century Catholic Brooklyn, with its lens on the Little Sisters of the Sick Poor, their laundress Annie and her daughter Sally.The beauty of the novel is that it doesn’t judge, providing the nuns with humanity without ele During this cynical point of time when the words “sacrifice” and “service” have become quaint and puzzling, The Ninth Hour seems a bit of an anachronism or at the very least, historical curiosity.Alice McDermott, however, in exquisite prose, captures the world of early twentieth century Catholic Brooklyn, with its lens on the Little Sisters of the Sick Poor, their laundress Annie and her daughter Sally.The beauty of the novel is that it doesn’t judge, providing the nuns with humanity without elevating them to martyrdom or turning them into figures of scorn or pity. One of the most powerful passages I’ve read this year occurs when Sally, a young girl who flirts with joining them, travels to Chicago to meet with the order on a train. There, she is forced to learn “the truth of the dirty world (showing) her that her own impulse was to meet its filthy citizens not with a consoling cloth, but with a curse, a punch in the face.”She makes her decision knowing she is flawed too, and with a greater sense of self.Is it better to elect chaos busyness, bustling…rambunctious kids, overflowing ashtrays, cloudy classes? Or is the serenity of religion, the focus on purity and sacrifice and eternal rules the more appealing way? As a non-believer, there were times while reading the book that I chafed—the pressure on an idealistic and naïve young girl to become a noviate and give up the comfort of married life, for example, or the equating of lovemaking with sin. But still, Alice McDermott’s goal is not to judge but instead, to test the limits of love and sacrifice. She does a darn good job of it.
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  • Colleen Fauchelle
    January 1, 1970
    I know I have other books I should have been reading. But this one caught my eye at work last thursday, so I brought it and have been reading it when I have had time.I loved this book. I have given a few books 5 stars this year but I would have to say this is my favorite. You see I went to a catholic primary school and when I was ill the Nuns would take me to their home and take care of me. That is what this story is about, the Nuns taking care of the people in the Brooklyn area and in reading i I know I have other books I should have been reading. But this one caught my eye at work last thursday, so I brought it and have been reading it when I have had time.I loved this book. I have given a few books 5 stars this year but I would have to say this is my favorite. You see I went to a catholic primary school and when I was ill the Nuns would take me to their home and take care of me. That is what this story is about, the Nuns taking care of the people in the Brooklyn area and in reading it I found myself comforted (some helth issues and other things).This story is also about a young woman pregant with her first child when her husband commits suicide and a lovely Nun on her way home comming in and taking care of things. The story follows the Mother and Child growing through life and also we get into the minds of some of the Nuns. A beautiful story with a suprising ending. For me it was perfect.
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  • Myra Reads
    January 1, 1970
    This is it – my favorite book from 2017. Growing up Catholic, I had an immediate connection to the story. McDermott clearly excels at creating the quiet stories of humanity. THE NINTH HOUR is a sublime piece of literary fiction by this award-winning author. Highly Recommended!PUBLICATION DATE: September 19, 2017
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  • Wen
    January 1, 1970
    This is my first Alice McDermott. I struggled through the bleakness and the seeming directionless over the large portion of the book, but pressed on only to see the ending. After all it was a short enough book, and it couldn’t have been spotted as a potential 2018 Pulitzer winner only for being an awfully miserable book. Besides I was afraid of missing something profound; my understanding in Irish Catholic dynamics is perfunctory at best. It wasn’t as gripping to me as The Heart’s Invisible Furi This is my first Alice McDermott. I struggled through the bleakness and the seeming directionless over the large portion of the book, but pressed on only to see the ending. After all it was a short enough book, and it couldn’t have been spotted as a potential 2018 Pulitzer winner only for being an awfully miserable book. Besides I was afraid of missing something profound; my understanding in Irish Catholic dynamics is perfunctory at best. It wasn’t as gripping to me as The Heart’s Invisible Furies, it nonetheless was a very worthwhile read. The book was set in an Irish Catholic neighborhood in early 20th century Brooklyn, New York. The suicide of a delinquent railroad worker started the bound between his pregnant widow Annie and several Little Nursing Sisters nuns from a nearby convent who came to assist. The book spanned four generations, reaching all the way back to the Civil War period. Prominently featured were a number of ordinary women in extraordinary circumstances: Annie, her daughter Sally who grew up in the convent, disabled and isolated Mrs. Costello, nursing nuns Sister St. Saviour, Sister Lucy and Sister Jeanne. Their daily lives involved struggles to survive in harsh living conditions, to love and be loved, and to make decisions that could be construed as controversial or immoral.Sally’s life journey, her choice for her own life, her shocking action leading to the climax to me were the strongest parts of the book. I grew mixed feelings toward MRS. Costello, her story of despair, loneliness and neediness was so realistic and memorable. The Little Sisters nuns were given such distinct personalities behind their bonnets that I felt I could tell them apart through exchanging just a few words with them. They were mortal human beings; they committed sins, from minor to severe, mostly by looking the other way, all for the act of love. Sister Jeanne was my favorite, while Sister Lucy was the most dynamic. Speaking of love, and also duty, the book tested their strengths and limits. How far should someone go for love, committing murder? Shirking off the duty of being a husband or a mother? Is going all in to be a nun required for religious devotion? Is doing one’s best to help out while enjoying life enough? How should we judge, or should we as outsiders judge at all?The book also covered the upper class, the unearned privilege and their attitudes, like buying someone to be their substitute to fight the war, although to me those were just side shows. Many details in the book describing bodily fluids were quite raw to me, reminded me of a war fiction that this one wasn’t. It was a little too much at times. The writing was solid, but there were some bothersome repetitions, some even within the same page. Also I wasn’t sure about the purpose of using the first-person narrative from one of Sally’s unnamed child, an unreliable witness. Those parts of the book beginning with "our father..." broke the flow, and got me lost or distracted.
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  • Peter Boyle
    January 1, 1970
    Long, long ago in the carefree 1990s, I was taught French by a fearsome nun. She was prone to mood swings and it was important to know how to handle them. If she was cheerful, she would regale us with hilarious stories and a well-timed question from one of my classmates might be lucky enough to delay the whole lesson. However, if she was in a foul humour, nobody was safe from her barbed tongue, and all we could do was count down the interminable minutes until the bell rang. What I mean to say is Long, long ago in the carefree 1990s, I was taught French by a fearsome nun. She was prone to mood swings and it was important to know how to handle them. If she was cheerful, she would regale us with hilarious stories and a well-timed question from one of my classmates might be lucky enough to delay the whole lesson. However, if she was in a foul humour, nobody was safe from her barbed tongue, and all we could do was count down the interminable minutes until the bell rang. What I mean to say is, though she was holy and endlessly charitable, she was human, just like the rest of us.The Ninth Hour focuses on a group of kindly Brooklyn nuns who dedicate their lives to God, and also to attending the sick and the needy. When a heavily pregnant Annie loses her husband, Sister St. Saviour is on hand to help out and organises a job for her in the convent laundry room. In the years that follow, her daughter Sally grows up among the nuns. She spends evenings after school doing her homework alongside the grouchy Sister Illuminata. The playful, childlike Sister Jeanne is her favourite. And as she enters adolescence, Sally contemplates following the same path as her blessed companions.The nuns are selfless, compassionate and unfailingly generous. In a neglected area rife with poverty, they look after the people who can't help themselves. But they are not without flaws. Jealousy sometimes gets in the way as they vie for dear Sally's attention. Sister Lucy is one of the most dedicated when comes to helping the unwell, but we are also told that she "lived with a small, tight knot of fury at the center of her chest." Though their faith is unwavering, it is tested by the hardship they encounter on a daily basis: "The madness with which suffering was dispersed in the world defied logic. There was nothing else like it for unevenness. Bad luck, bad health, bad timing. Innocent children were afflicted as often as bad men. Young mothers were struck down even as old ones fretfully lingered. Good lives ended in confusion or despair or howling devastation...There was no accounting for it. No accounting for how general it was, how arbitrary." This understated novel is a celebration of those who give up their lives to serve the needs of the unfortunate. These nuns are all heroes but they go about their business quietly in the hope of a heavenly reward. The plot may be a little uneventful but this is compensated by rich characterization. Most of all I admired how it explored the inner lives of the nuns, their worries and shortcomings making them seem all the more real to me. The Ninth Hour is a meticulously crafted story about the power of kindness and the enormous sacrifices that are made in pursuing in a vocation.
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  • Jossie Marie Solheim
    January 1, 1970
    I wanted to love this book, but I just couldn't get into it. It rambled on quite a bit, without the story seeming to really get anywhere and felt repetitive at times. It really wasn't for me. I did however like the small glimmers of story that occasionally found its way through, but sadly it was overshadowed by the writing style, which didn't flow and made reading it hard work. The layout of the story and the way it jumped around only further confused things and after reading just over a quarter I wanted to love this book, but I just couldn't get into it. It rambled on quite a bit, without the story seeming to really get anywhere and felt repetitive at times. It really wasn't for me. I did however like the small glimmers of story that occasionally found its way through, but sadly it was overshadowed by the writing style, which didn't flow and made reading it hard work. The layout of the story and the way it jumped around only further confused things and after reading just over a quarter of the book I had to admit defeat and stop reading.
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  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    The title is taken from the nones in the Catholic liturgy, the hour of Christ’s death on the cross. As McDermott has explained in interviews on the book's conception There’s a wonderful series of poems on the hours by W.H. Auden in which 3 p.m. is the moment of stillness. Jesus has just died, and we don’t know what will happen next. Is he really dead, or is he going to come back? It’s the moment in which both believers and unbelievers are holding their breaths. Alice McDermott’s novels have tend The title is taken from the nones in the Catholic liturgy, the hour of Christ’s death on the cross. As McDermott has explained in interviews on the book's conception There’s a wonderful series of poems on the hours by W.H. Auden in which 3 p.m. is the moment of stillness. Jesus has just died, and we don’t know what will happen next. Is he really dead, or is he going to come back? It’s the moment in which both believers and unbelievers are holding their breaths. Alice McDermott’s novels have tended to be based around Irish emigrants to the US (particularly in the Brooklyn area) and often shot through with Catholic themes. This, her ninth novel was originally inspired by the idea of Civil War substitutes – whereby a drafted person could, if they were sufficiently rich, pay someone else to take their place – and her thoughts that military service now (post draft) is now a national form of substitution. But as consideration of this idea naturally lead her back to Christianity and particularly to the cross, which she then linked to childhood memories and stories of the role of nuns in caring for the sick, and then as she has explained in interviews “the nuns showed up and took over the …. book which in turn became a meditation on selflessness and selfishness, and whether that’s a gift or burden to the people around youThe book opens with the death of Jim, an Irish immigrant who has just been fired from his underground railwayman job due to persistent lateness. “He killed himself” the officer whispered, his breath sour, as if in reaction to the situation he was obliged to report. “Turned on the gas. Lucky he didn’t take everyone else with him" The officer is speaking to a nun, drawn to the fire which follows the suicide, a member of an order dedicated to nursing the ill, elderly, poor and disadvantaged, and one used to dealing with secrets: Accustomed as she was to breezing into the lives of strangers, Sister accepted the information with only a discreet nod, but in the space of it, in the time it took her to merely turn her cheek and bow her head, her eyes disappeared behind the stuff edge of her bonnet. When she looked up again – her eyes behind the glasses were small and brown and caught the little bit of light the way only a hard surface could, marble or black tin, nothing watery – the truth of the suicide was both acknowledged and put away. She had pried handkerchiefs from the tight fists of young women, opened them to see the blood mixed with phlegm, and then balled them up again, nodding in just such a way, She had breezed into the homes of strangers and seen the bottles in the bin, the poor contents of a cupboard, the bruise in a hidden place, seen as well once, a pale, thumb sized infant in a basin filled with blood and, saying nothing at all, had bowed her head and nodded in just such a way. She arranges (unsuccessfully due to a newspaper article which uncovers the truth) for the burial of Jim on consecrated ground, while also arranging for Jim’s pregnant wife Annie and her daughter Sally to be cared for in the convent. Encourages by the nuns, Annie forms a close friendship with Mrs. Tierney, wife of a hotel doorman, and mother to six children (one of whom is Patrick - future husband to Sally we learn even when we meet them both as infants). She also, without their encouragement, starts a relationship with the local milkman Mr Costello, whose bed ridden crippled and resentful wife is cared for by the nuns. As she grows Sally works alongside an ageing nun in the convent laundry and is increasingly drawn to the life of self-sacrifice and service of the nuns and their role in offering some form of redemption to a suffering world. The life of a nursing sister is the antidote to the devil’s ambitions [to convince human beings they were no more than animals, never angels]. A life immaculate and pure. A sister makes herself pure … not to credit her own soul with her sacrifice – her giving up of the world – but to become the sweet, clean antidote to suffering, to pain. “You wouldn’t put a dirty cloth to an open wound ……. Down here [in the convent laundry] we do our best to transform what is ugly, soiled, stained …we send it back into the world like a resurrected soul. We’re like the priest in his confessional … We send the sisters our each morning immaculate … a Clean cloth to apply to the suffering world At the age of eighteen, against her mother’s wishes, she travels to Chicago to start as a novice in a nursing convent there, but her experiences on the journey (a woman who delights in teasing her with sexual innuendo, another who uses a sob story to take the money her mother has given her after years of saving) and her reaction to them, convince her that the life is not for her the long train ride showed her the truth of the dirty world, showed her that her own impulse was to meet its filthy citizens not with a consoling cloth, but with a curse, a punch in the face The train journey being one of the key set pieces to the novel alongside a journey Patrick and his father take to the funeral of Patrick’s grandfather where they meet the latter’s substitute (and the great Aunt, the grandfather’s sister, who devoted her life to caring for him in some form of obliged service for his role in sparing the life of her brother).On her return to New York – Sally finds her mother with Mr. Costello, and Annie makes it clear she is not prepared to change her behaviour – leaving the service of the convent and asking Sally to move out. Sally moves, with the nuns help, to the Tierney’s house and also, starts nursing Mrs. Costello having been urged by the nuns to simply do some good in your mother’s name … until your mother’s ready to do something for herself …. a kind of penance … a way to gain some indulgence for her. For her soul.(view spoiler)[When Mrs. Costello declines (or possibly fakes a decline) in health – Mr. Costello reluctantly leaves Annie and breaks off their relationship. Sally resolves to sacrifice herself for her mother’s happiness “She was to exchange her own immortal soul for her mother’s mortal happiness” by poisoning Mrs. Costello with alum in her tea, but as she attempts it Mrs. Costello chokes to death anyway (seemingly due to Sister Jeanne feeding her apple peel in her apple sauce and then not intervening until too late) – it seems Jeanne doing this act (which she believes rules out her salvation) out of love for both Annie and Sally I gave up my place in heaven a long time ago [when Sally was 18] out of live for my friends. (hide spoiler)]As an aside – piercing together two different and seemingly unrelated accounts from different parts of the book gives the implication that Annie indirectly precipitated the dog attack which lead to Mrs. Costello being crippled (when she lead a hue and cry about a man she had seen beating a child, and Mrs. Costello searched in a yard containing the dog) – adding only further to the ideas of sacrifice and substitution. The book is largely written in third person historical point of view, but scenes are sometimes narrated or recounted, at least in introduction, by Patrick and Sally’s grandchildren, based it would seem on family legends as passed down either by their mother or father, or by Sister Jeanne a Sister close to Alice and Sally who is a key protagonist in many of the key scenes (particularly the suicide the starts the book and the death that ends it). This takes place in an unusual first person plural in which (in what is presumably a deliberately religious link) they refer to Patrick as our father – this voice acting as a kind of Greek chorus and in McDermott’s words acting as a contemporary filter on the historic events and social mores of the novel. Growing old, we indulged him. We listened to the same stories told again and kept silent about the truth: that our mother’s midlife melancholy was clinical depression, unspoken of in those days … That Great Aunt Rose’s happy tremor …. was surely Parkinson’s ….. that the Holy Nuns who sailed through the house when we were young were a dying breed even then. The Bishop with his eye on their rich man’s mansion even then. The call to sanctity and self-sacrifice, the delusion and superstition it required, fading from the world even then In many ways I felt this book was the exact opposite of books such as Eileen and Sorry to Disrupt the Peace. Like those books this novel is full of scatological detail – but whereas in those books it struck me as a childish attempt to be provocative and outrageous (interestingly exactly the same approach adopted by the woman who tries to provoke Sally on her train journey), in this novel it simply reflects the reality of the nursing work which the nuns carry out in their self-sacrificial service. And whereas “Sorry to Disrupt the Peace” is unapologetically scathing about religion, this book presents a nuanced but positive view.Overall a fascinating book and one I would highly recommend.
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  • Eileen
    January 1, 1970
    This was simply exquisite! It resonated with me from the opening page. She writes so beautifully, capturing the era, the sense of place. The reader quickly gets a feel for the ethic neighborhood of Catholic Brooklyn in the early 1900s. Opening with the suicide of a young father to be, the novel unfolds at a deliberate pace. The Little Sisters of the Nursing Poor hasten on the scene, assisting and supporting his pregnant young widow, and the highly original plot is launched. There’s a bit of back This was simply exquisite! It resonated with me from the opening page. She writes so beautifully, capturing the era, the sense of place. The reader quickly gets a feel for the ethic neighborhood of Catholic Brooklyn in the early 1900s. Opening with the suicide of a young father to be, the novel unfolds at a deliberate pace. The Little Sisters of the Nursing Poor hasten on the scene, assisting and supporting his pregnant young widow, and the highly original plot is launched. There’s a bit of back and forth among different time periods, tantalizing the reader with glimpses of characters whose significance and role have yet to be revealed. The nuns are key, and their varied personalities are endearing, often portrayed with wry humor. Incidentally, the book is dedicated to Sister Mary Rose, C.J. Clearly, Alice McDermott is drawing on life experience. I tend to read quickly but I afforded a this different tempo – even putting the book aside for some time outs – and savoring every word, as I was determined to prolong the experience! Numerous eloquent, well deserved reviews have already appeared: it’s beyond me to add anything meaningful! Here’s a particularly keen observation from the back cover: ‘Like the masters, she makes it look effortless…What a joy it is to experience subtlety, reticence and the intelligent unfolding of a real story before your eyes, as opposed to the in-your-face posturing of so many of McDermott’s contemporaries, for whom style has dissipated into mannerism and strange stereotypical character-building.’ Conan Putnam, Chicago Tribune.
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  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    For a period in my early 20s I worked as a caregiver to mentally handicapped adults who lived in halfway houses. These extraordinary women and men all required a varying amount of care, supervision and companionship. Often the work felt rewarding and enlivening, but sometimes it could be overwhelmingly upsetting and draining. In those dark moments it felt futile and insignificant. I mention this only because something I think Alice McDermott captures so powerfully in this novel is the sense of a For a period in my early 20s I worked as a caregiver to mentally handicapped adults who lived in halfway houses. These extraordinary women and men all required a varying amount of care, supervision and companionship. Often the work felt rewarding and enlivening, but sometimes it could be overwhelmingly upsetting and draining. In those dark moments it felt futile and insignificant. I mention this only because something I think Alice McDermott captures so powerfully in this novel is the sense of ambiguity that comes with the compulsion to “do good” vs the daily physical reality of providing care. The novel follows one family’s involvement with a nunnery in NYC where this band of Sisters regularly go out into the community to collect money for the poor, provide service to those in need and intervene in troubled situations. “The Ninth Hour” primarily follows the life of a girl named Sally born in a tragic situation and her heartrending struggles with faith and helping others in her journey to adulthood.Read my full review of The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott on LonesomeReader
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  • Brandice
    January 1, 1970
    The Ninth Hour starts off with a suicide and continues with the aftermath: a young pregnant widow, Annie, assisted by nuns in the area. Her daughter is born, Sally, and the story is primarily focused on her. The story also involves Annie, the nuns, the neighbors and local community. I don’t know much about the traditional Catholic religion, but I did not find the religious elements to be overwhelming, even with the story’s heavy involvement of nuns. I know nursing was a huge part of their practi The Ninth Hour starts off with a suicide and continues with the aftermath: a young pregnant widow, Annie, assisted by nuns in the area. Her daughter is born, Sally, and the story is primarily focused on her. The story also involves Annie, the nuns, the neighbors and local community. I don’t know much about the traditional Catholic religion, but I did not find the religious elements to be overwhelming, even with the story’s heavy involvement of nuns. I know nursing was a huge part of their practice, but there were more references to bodily functions and anatomy than I would’ve preferred, as the reader. This is my strongest complaint about the book. The book was fairly short, but powerfully packed. I stayed interested in the story despite disliking some decisions made by Sally and Annie. The Ninth Hour is the first of Alice McDermott’s books I’ve read. It was evident early on that she’s worth the hype. The quality of her writing is wonderful. I would definitely read more from her.
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  • Mary Lins
    January 1, 1970
    Here’s the gist of my review of “The Ninth Hour”, by Alice McDermott: I loved it and I didn’t want it to end. Keep reading and I’ll tell you why.Beginning with a suicide on a dismal winter’s day in Catholic/immigrant Brooklyn near the beginning of the 20th century, McDermott completely and vividly captures the time, place and denizens of this moment in the history of New York, the US, and of the Catholic Church.The novel is narrated by a collective “we”; the children and grandchildren of the mai Here’s the gist of my review of “The Ninth Hour”, by Alice McDermott: I loved it and I didn’t want it to end. Keep reading and I’ll tell you why.Beginning with a suicide on a dismal winter’s day in Catholic/immigrant Brooklyn near the beginning of the 20th century, McDermott completely and vividly captures the time, place and denizens of this moment in the history of New York, the US, and of the Catholic Church.The novel is narrated by a collective “we”; the children and grandchildren of the main characters. This narrative choice was captivating and thoroughly realistic for me, as I am the great-grandchild of Irish Catholic immigrants whose stories and faith were handed down from generation to generation. McDermott centers the story around two families and the nuns belonging to the convent of the “Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor, Congregation of Mary Before the Cross”. I became particularly fond of the nun characters as McDermott fully renders each as individuals; sweet Sister Jeanne, stern Sister Lucy, pragmatic Sister Illuminata, and manipulative Sister St. Savoir who starts the whole story rolling. So often modern literature depicts nuns in a negative light, it was refreshing to meet nun characters who were “real”: neither all good nor all bad, each with her own motivations and beliefs. Sister Jeanne especially focuses her faith on “fairness” and the belief that God will make everything balance in the end, even though in life we see so much unfairness: the good suffer, evil is rewarded. The notion of fairness is a running theme throughout the novel and Sister Jeanne's personal struggle is especially poignant.McDermott’s neighborhood is filled with details that are but a memory today:- Milk Men- Free range children- Nuns begging for alms and nursing the poor- Wakes- Statues covered in purple cloth during Lent- The certainty of Heaven and HellMidway through the novel there is a pivotal chapter that takes place on an overnight train ride between New York and Chicago that is both perfect and genius, and the reason why McDermott is an acclaimed author. Her writing puts the reader right on that train with the character Sally, who is going to Chicago with the intention of becoming a nun like the Little Sisters she grew up with (her mother worked in the convent laundry). I could almost hear, smell, taste, and feel, along with Sally on her transformative ride.  Writing like McDermott's is why this novel will likely end up on my Top Ten list for 2017. I just wish it was longer.
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  • Doug
    January 1, 1970
    This was my first experience of McDermott, and probably my last. It isn't that the book is poorly written necessarily, although I thought it rather oddly structured and repetitive in places - I just found it bleak and dispiriting, when it wasn't downright dull and boring. And McDermott not only concentrates on the more depressing aspects of the human condition, she also has a weird fixation for bodily excretions - people are forever breaking wind, and there are myriad descriptions of other bathr This was my first experience of McDermott, and probably my last. It isn't that the book is poorly written necessarily, although I thought it rather oddly structured and repetitive in places - I just found it bleak and dispiriting, when it wasn't downright dull and boring. And McDermott not only concentrates on the more depressing aspects of the human condition, she also has a weird fixation for bodily excretions - people are forever breaking wind, and there are myriad descriptions of other bathroom functions. Not being Catholic myself, nor having much in the way of a religious bent, all the minutiae of the nuns' lives meant next to nothing to me, and when a slight resemblance of a plot finally appears in the final 25 pages, it's definitely a case of too little, too late. And (mild spoiler ahead) when an already joyless book ends with the threat of hellfire for a sacrificing nun's one indiscretion - well, sorry, you've lost me.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    [4+] A subtle, exquisitely written novel about growing up in a Catholic Brooklyn neighborhood in the early 20th century. I have a new appreciation for nuns after reading this novel. Not just nuns. McDermott power is that I find myself looking at everything she writes about in a new, fresh way. I started off listening to this novel but the audio didn't work for me and I switched to print.
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  • Renata
    January 1, 1970
    What an absolute marvel of a story this is. A miracle of writing and storytelling. Alice McDermott has been one of my favorite authors since I read her first book decades ago. She is one of the few authors who never, ever disappoints. The Ninth Hour is I feel one of her strongest novels both for the richness of her many characters - especially those nuns! But it is the way in which she builds the story, builds her themes, builds her characters with many delicate layers like creating a cloisonné What an absolute marvel of a story this is. A miracle of writing and storytelling. Alice McDermott has been one of my favorite authors since I read her first book decades ago. She is one of the few authors who never, ever disappoints. The Ninth Hour is I feel one of her strongest novels both for the richness of her many characters - especially those nuns! But it is the way in which she builds the story, builds her themes, builds her characters with many delicate layers like creating a cloisonné. It shimmers like a jewel even as you are reading, even despite the sordid and ugly and grim portrayals of poverty. All is overshadowed by the light of her writing. This is the story of Annie and her daughter Sally and how their lives are interwoven with the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor. The story is set in Catholic Brooklyn early in the twentieth century. It made me wish we had the nursing sisters today to ease the way of so much misery and suffering - kind of generalized Midwives! But even then, they were a diminishing breed. I think of Alice McDermott as the Sister Illuminata - illuminating for us lessons on life.I’m neither Irish nor Catholic, but I feel the warm glow of a benediction read over me upon completing this “illuminated” book of hours.
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  • Irene
    January 1, 1970
    What does it mean to love, for love to stand before suffering one’s own and another’s suffering, to stand even when love can not end the suffering, to love without counting the cost even though one knows what must be paid, to sacrifice whatever is asked? This is the question I found at the heart of this novel of a young widow raising her daughter under the care of a local convent of nursing sisters. I liked this story with its complicated characters, religious themes, layers of glimpsed question What does it mean to love, for love to stand before suffering one’s own and another’s suffering, to stand even when love can not end the suffering, to love without counting the cost even though one knows what must be paid, to sacrifice whatever is asked? This is the question I found at the heart of this novel of a young widow raising her daughter under the care of a local convent of nursing sisters. I liked this story with its complicated characters, religious themes, layers of glimpsed questions. I appreciated that McDermott trusted her reader enough to open door after door, letting the reader make her own observations, draw his own conclusions.
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  • RoseMary Achey
    January 1, 1970
    There was a time when the Catholic Church played a role in almost every facet of life for their parishioners. In Alice McDermott's new book we are subtly transported back to that time and become enmeshed in the lives of the Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor. McDermott does a fine job with providing each character with a rich and varied personality. This is a comforting book that defines a period in American history now extinct.
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  • Cass Moriarty
    January 1, 1970
    Sometimes I read a book that is so exquisitely written that I simultaneously feel envious of the author’s ability and optimistically hopeful about the art of writing. The Ninth Hour (Bloomsbury Publishing Australia 2017), by Alice McDermott, is a book of such quiet beauty, such carefully crafted sentences and such intricate and immersive plot, that it carried me away to another time and place, and left me bereft when I turned the last page. It is a truly lovely novel, a wise tale of loss and sac Sometimes I read a book that is so exquisitely written that I simultaneously feel envious of the author’s ability and optimistically hopeful about the art of writing. The Ninth Hour (Bloomsbury Publishing Australia 2017), by Alice McDermott, is a book of such quiet beauty, such carefully crafted sentences and such intricate and immersive plot, that it carried me away to another time and place, and left me bereft when I turned the last page. It is a truly lovely novel, a wise tale of loss and sacrifice, of love and forgiveness. It begins on a gloomy afternoon when Jim – plagued by his own demons – sends his wife Annie out on a shopping trip, seals the gaps in their small apartment, unhooks the gas and takes his own life. The effect of his suicide sends reverberations down through the generations. The story is told from the perspective of his grandchildren, as they recall what they know – what they remember and what they have been told – of the lives of their forebears, their great-grandparents, their grandparents and their parents, and sundry other relatives. Jim’s wife, Annie, now a grieving (pregnant) widow, is given work in the laundry of a local convent, and when her daughter is born, she too grows up in the shadow of the nuns and their religion. This is a meandering story that traverses much ground, dipping here and there into the lives of different family members, including the history and background of the fellow that Annie’s daughter eventually marries. In Catholic Brooklyn in the early twentieth century, life revolves around superstition, respect and responsibilities, shame and decorum. The cloistered lives of the nuns – and the working poor whom they support and care for – are depicted with colour, and the nuanced shades of people’s hungers and appetites (for love, for sex, for power, for ambition) are explored with an empathetic voice. The characters’ moral ambiguities and choices are examined with a keen eye and a steady and unwavering sentiment. The overarching message is one about the passage of time, and the indomitability of hope. Life does indeed ‘pass in the blink of an eye’, and yet it is such a rich blessing when considered in all its hues.
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