Jill McCorkle's Life After Life, set in fictional Fulton, N.C., is told through a chorus of characters that have a connection to the Pine Haven Retirement Community.
Some stories are relayed through the residents, some by the staff, some by young neighbors. But the binding character and primary voice belong to hospice worker, Joanna Lamb.
As part of her patients’ care, Joanna keeps a notebook of their first memories, favorite things, thoughts on their lives, final words and her own observations. This notebook allows "life after life"-- a place where these people will continue living, where they will not be forgotten.
The words "life after life" take on so many meanings in this novel: The retirement life after a life of fulfillment, the obvious moving from this life to the next-- which occurs more frequently in the retirement center. But it also refers to a mother's dream of building a good life for her child after her own upbringing proves disappointing.
And, most importantly, it alludes to the new life that Joanna has created for herself. Her past lives, made up of one poor decision after another, led to attempted suicide. But the intervention of one man, and one big dog, put an end to the downward spiral and began a chain reaction of good decisions.
This is Jill McCorkle's first novel in 17 years. Maybe it’s part of her own life after life.