The Book

The death of charming Billy Lynch from alcoholism is the starting point from which McDermott meticulously develops this poignant and ironic story of a blighted life set in the Irish-American communities of Queens, the Bronx, and the Hamptons.

“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, Charming Billy, 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. Charming Billy is the winner of the 1998 National Book Award for Fiction.”


The Author

Alice McDermott’s eighth novel, The Ninth Hour (2017), appeared on numerous “best books of the year” lists, and her seventh novel, Someone (2013) was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for multiple literary prizes. Three of her previous novels, After This, At Weddings and Wakes and That Night, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Charming Billy won the National Book Award for fiction in 1998. Her stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Harpers, Commonweal and elsewhere.  A member of the New York State Writers Hall of Fame, McDermott is the Richard A. Macksey Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University.  

"Magical...In Charming Billy, Ms. McDermott writes...with wisdom and grace, refusing to sentimentalize her characters even as she forces us to recognize their decency and goodness. She has written a luminous and affecting novel."

Michiko Kakutani,The New York Times