May 15, 2024
7:30 pm (Eastern Time)

Jesuit Media Lab Book Club: Alice McDermott on “Absolution”

May 15, 2024
pm ET

Join the Jesuit Media Lab for an author conversation with Alice McDermott on her new novel “Absolution,” named a Best Book of the Year by Time, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Kirkus Reviews, Los Angeles Times, NPR, Oprah Daily, Real Simple and Vogue.

A riveting account of women’s lives on the margins of the Vietnam War, from the renowned winner of the National Book Award.

“You have no idea what it was like. For us. The women, I mean. The wives.”

American women ― American wives ― have been mostly minor characters in the literature of the Vietnam War, but in Absolution they take center stage. Tricia is a shy newlywed, married to a rising attorney on loan to navy intelligence. Charlene is a practiced corporate spouse and mother of three, a beauty and a bully. In Saigon in 1963, the two women form a wary alliance as they balance the era’s mandate to be “helpmeets” to their ambitious husbands with their own inchoate impulse to “do good” for the people of Vietnam.

Sixty years later, Charlene’s daughter, spurred by an encounter with an aging Vietnam vet, reaches out to Tricia. Together, they look back at their time in Saigon, taking wry account of that pivotal year and of Charlene’s altruistic machinations, and discovering how their own lives as women on the periphery ― of politics, of history, of war, of their husbands’ convictions ― have been shaped and burdened by the same sort of unintended consequences that followed America’s tragic interference in Southeast Asia.

A virtuosic new novel from Alice McDermott, one of our most observant, most affecting writers, about folly and grace, obligation, sacrifice, and, finally, the quest for absolution in a broken world.

Alice McDermott is the author of nine novels, including “Charming Billy,” winner of the National Book Award, and “That Night,” “At Weddings and Wakes” and “After This,” which were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. She is also the author of the essay collection “What About the Baby?: Some Thoughts on the Art of Fiction.” Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine and other publications. She lives outside Washington, D.C.