Charming Billy

By Alice McDermott
(Picador, Paperback, 9780312429423, 256pp.)

Publication Date: November 24, 2009

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback, Paperback

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A New York Times bestseller, winner of the National Book Award and a finalist for the International Dublin IMPAC Literary Award, Charming Billy is "Alice McDermott's masterpiece" (NPR) and now a Picador Modern Classic.

Billy Lynch’s family and friends have gathered to comfort his widow, and to pay their respects to one of the last great romantics. As they trade tales of his famous humor, immense charm, and consuming sorrow, a complex portrait emerges of an enigmatic man, a loyal friend, a beloved husband, an incurable alcoholic. Alice McDermott’s striking novel is a study of the lies that bind and the weight of familial love, of the way good intentions can be as destructive as the truth they were meant to hide.

About the Author

Alice McDermott is the author of six novels. Her articles, reviews and stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, Redbook and elsewhere.

Conversation Starters from


  1. If Billy's wife had been beautiful, observes the narrator, "then the story of his life, or the story they would begin to re-create for him this afternoon, would have to take another turn" (p. 3). What is the accepted story of Billy's life as presented by the mourners assembled at the funeral lunch? Which aspects of that story turn out to be false? 

Praise For Charming Billy

"A luminous and affecting novel."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"There's no one like Alice McDermott for catching the ebullient particulars of the Irish-American sensibility...her touch is light as a feather, her perceptions purely accurate."—Elle

"McDermott demonstrates anew that she is a writer in a league all her own."—People

"An exquisitly rendered potrait...tales overlap tales in a singsong pattern of Irish-American brogue and family history."—Entertainment Weekly

"An astoundingly beautiful novel about the persistence of love, the perseverance of grief, and all-but-unbearable loneliness, as well as faith, loyalty, and redemption."—Philadelphia Inquirer
"Taut and beautifully written...Each distinct atom of reality splits under McDermott's artisan hammer and releases a world of wild, lost particles: charm, for example, and others the physicists have not yet invented, such as grief, comedy, even happiness."—Los Angeles Times

"This is fiction as good as it gets."—USA Today

"Haunting...mesmerizing...McDermott is an enormously skilled and assured writer who transforms the ordinary into something resonant and magical."—Cleveland Plain Dealer

"[A] rueful shrug of a novel whose strong, shrewd opening pages should be taught in college writing classes."—Time

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