top of page


Alice McDermott

Thursday, April 11, 2024

4:30 p.m. — Craft Talk / Q&A, Multi-Purpose Room, Campus Center West Addition
7:30 p.m. — Conversation, Campus Center West Auditorium See map.

Alice McDermott, one of the leading novelists of her generation, is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Absolution (2023), about the lives of American women on the margins of the Vietnam War. Wives have appeared as minor characters in Vietnam War fiction, but in Absolution they take center stage.

Novelist Ann Patchett said, “Absolution is one of the finest contemporary novels I've read. It is a moral masterpiece." 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 — all three of them finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

Cosponsored by the English Department’s Creative Writing Program and Young Writers Project.

In 2013, she was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame. She is the Richard A. Macksey Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University.  

Alice McDermott's Absolution
Praise for 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.

"Alice McDermott has always been one of our greatest writers but here she exceeds every expectation. Abs
olution is one of the finest contemporary novels I've read. It is a moral masterpiece." —Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House

“Enveloping . . . Retrospect amplifies McDermott’s narrative approach; her work lives in its shimmering details . . . The debacle of America’s involvement in Vietnam might easily have overdetermined McDermott’s story, and it is a measure of her skill that Absolution maintains an oblique relationship to the war . . . What difference might it have made, for everyone, if those wives had been given a choice in the decision-makin
g? Without posing this question directly, Absolution leaves the reader in its provocative shadow.” —Jennifer Egan, The New York Times

Alice McDermott, credit Beowulf Sheehan 400w.jpg

(Photo credit Beowulf Sheehan)

"With Absolution, Alice McDermott delivers another elegantly written, immaculately conceived novel that immerses the reader in the contradictions and moral ambiguities of the human heart. McDermott is a storyteller who aims for the stars. Absolution takes us there, by way of wartime Saigon, and with a powerful reminder that good intentions can have consequences that jerk us awake over a lifetime. What a splendid, compelling book this is." —Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried

"[McDermott] has taken the worn tapestry of the war novel and turned it inside out, exposing the original colors and throwing the battles and bivouacs into stark relief." —Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times

"Crystalline, searching . . . McDermott spins gold from sensuous details . . . Beautifully conceived and executed, Absolution stares down the assumptions and loyalties that cage us all." —Hamilton Cain, The Washington Post

"It's futile to predict where a great writer's boundless imagination will take us and, as Absolution affirms, McDermott is a great writer . . . McDermott possesses the rare ability to evoke and enter bygone worlds—pre-Vatican II Catholicism, pre-feminist-movement marriages—without condescending to them. She understands that the powerhouses can dominate the helpmeets. She also understands that playing God is the role of a lifetime—and every human actor should turn it down." —Maureen Corrigan, NPR


William Kennedy, Alice McDermott, and Paul Grondahl in conversation at the Across the Street Pub in Albany following McDermott's event at UAlbany on (Photo credit: Michael Huber)

bottom of page