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The Ninth Hour

A dark, thought-provoking and moving story about an Irish immigrant family and a community of nuns who thanklessly care for the sick and the poor.



Late one winter afternoon, Jim ushered his wife out the door to do some shopping. After she leaves, this Irish immigrant subway worker blocked the door, covered the windows and opened up the gas taps in their Brooklyn tenement. His suicide would forever alter the lives of his wife, Annie, and his unborn daughter, Sally. Despite being aided and shepherded by a community of nursing nuns, Annie and Sally struggle with life decisions and their moral compass in years following Jim’s death. The story is narrated by one of Sally’s children, with the focus on Sally’s life, as well as the lives and works of the nuns who administer to the need of the Brooklyn Irish immigrant community.

“Fairness demanded that grief should find succor, that wounds should heal, insults and confusion find recompense and certainty, that every living person God has made should not, willy-nilly, be forever unmade.”


The Ninth Hour is the time for afternoon prayers for the nursing nuns. It’s a time to ask for God’s mercy for the ills and sins of their community. Annie and Sallie needed the nuns prayers, as did so many others in their Brooklyn neighborhood. Set in the first half of the twentieth century, THE NINTH HOUR is dark and affecting. The prose was masterfully descriptive, evocative and emotional. The detailed descriptions of the grim aspects of illnesses and death that the nuns experienced, among the poor were gritty. One of the most poignant chapters in the book was innocent Sally’s dramatic train trip to Chicago. She was going to Chicago to join a convent, but the shocking experiences with the coarse people she encountered on the train caused her to change her mind. She immediately returned to Brooklyn, only to find that things had changed there in her brief absence.

The characters were complex and plentiful. Issues of death, depression, sin, reparations, secrets and guilt are explored. Lovers of dark and affecting literary fiction will appreciate THE NINTH HOUR. This is McDermott’s eight novel. She has received The National Book (2017), the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction (2018), and the Kirkus Prize for Fiction ( 2017), for this book.

Publisher Farrah Straus and Giroux

Publication Date September 19, 2017

Narrated Euan Morton

“She saw how the skim of filth, which was despair, which was hopelessness, fell like soot on the lives of the poor.”
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