The Ninth Hour (2017)

by Alice McDermott

In The Ninth Hour Alice McDermott pays tribute to an order of nursing nuns who labored among the disadvantaged residents of early 20th-century Brooklyn. The Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor of the Congregation of Mary Before the Cross went into the homes of the sick and the elderly in a mostly Irish Catholic neighborhood, performing services from dressing wounds to changing bedsheets. Practical, caring, with strong personalities, the nuns “do more good in this world than any lazy parish priest,” one character remarks. The book’s title refers to the hour of prayers in a convent as well as the time that important events in the novel occur.

The story has multiple narrators who are descendants of Annie, a widow of a suicide, and her daughter Sally, who worked in the convent. At the risk of her very salvation, Sister Jeanne let an invalid choke to death to allow Annie to be free to marry the invalid’s husband.

McDermott, an Irish Catholic herself, often portrays Irish Catholics in her novels. She teaches at Johns Hopkins University and has been a National Book Award winner and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.


Home               My reviews               My friends' reviews