“Alice McDermott's dazzling The Ninth Hour turns on the contradictions that confound our need to reconcile with mortality. The empathetic characters, at once agents and benefactors of Christian charity, grow to realize not just the grace but also the hubris of their faith. A stunning work of generational storytelling, The Ninth Hour is compulsively readable and deeply thought-provoking. McDermott is a master artisan of humanity.”
— Lori Feathers, Interabang Books, Dallas, TX
“The magic and brilliance of The Ninth Hour lie in its exploration of faith tested daily not by evil or crises or overwhelming tragedy or even philosophy, but by the simple mess and muck of life. These are no cloistered, saintly nuns at the heart of McDermott’s book, but fallible women in constant negotiation with God as the inflexible rules by which they are supposed to live clash with the comfort and grace they strive to offer.”
— Ezra Goldstein, Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
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, a Little 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, although 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 lucidity and intelligence, Alice McDermott's The Ninth Hour is a crowning achievement of one of the finest American writers at work today.