Critical Overview

After This is often compared to the McDermott’s National Book Award–winning novel Charming Billy. Both books are about Irish-Catholic families living in New York and Long Island, and the two books are written in a similar style and share common themes. However, readers will find that After This comes without the comic relief that made Charming Billy so popular. After This is chopped into smaller sections that offer tidbits of information about individual characters. However, as New York Times Book Review critic Paul Gray said, McDermott is not a journalist, providing readers with mere facts. Instead, she is determined to explore the “shifting inner lives of her characters, confident that God—or the larger picture [of the novel]—will be found in the details.”

Jane Hamilton, writing for the Washington Post, described the author’s style this way: McDermott’s After This has no excess. Hamilton found the novel to posses a “mythic quality,” and she also commended McDermott for her rare gift of narrative skill.