Book Circle: The Ninth Hour
Join us for readings and discussion of this best selling novel by Alice McDermott.
Wednesdays, May 1, 15, 29, 2019, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Leader: Danielle Gagnon, RSM
Please note: To get an advance copy of the book, The Ninth Hour, you must also register for the event, An Afternoon with Alice McDermott which takes place on Sunday, June 2, 2019. For more information, contact Kathleen McCauley at 215-934-6206 or email@example.com
In one beautifully observed, quietly absorbing novel after another, Alice McDermott has made the insular world of New York’s Irish Catholic immigrants in the first half of the 20th century her own, much as Anne Tyler has laid claim to Baltimore’s middle class. And, like Tyler, in focusing tightly on a close-knit community of ordinary people, she leads us to a deeper understanding of the human condition.
The Ninth Hour, McDermott’s eighth novel, is about an order of nursing nuns and the needy families, elderly shut-ins, disabled invalids and strapped widows they care for in a predominantly Irish Catholic neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor are not the cruel knuckle-rappers that dominate parochial school fiction. The unpaid, unlicensed equivalent of social workers and visiting nurses, they trudge from one derelict walkup to another, bearing applesauce, poultices, and aspirin. They change sheets, diapers, and bedpans, scrub homes and wipe bottoms. They may toil thanklessly and view their mission as “the pure, clean antidote to filth, to pain,” but McDermott makes one thing clear as she burrows deep into these Sisters’ psyches, histories and not always sanctioned behavior: They are distinct, opinionated individuals underneath their impersonal habits. Despite their vision-blocking bonnets, they see everything, including the ugly side of humanity — nasty, drunken husbands, a brother who abuses his sisters, a whining, ungrateful invalid, and greedy priests who live in relative comfort while taking credit for their ceaseless labors. But they are also willing to look the other way and flout Church rules and moral edicts when they see fit.