Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review: Going Away Shoes by Jill McCorkle

While short story collections aren't my thing, Jill McCorkle is, and I was thinking it was kind of crazy that there are books, in my house, by one of my all-time favorite authors, which I haven't read. So I decided to tackle it.

Now, because short stories aren't my thing, they take me forever to read. I don't think you should read a collection just one after the other after the other, unless the book is actually a collection of short stories that make up a novel (like The Joy Luck Club or Olive Kitteridge.) So never more than one a night. And so that means I've always got another book going at the same time, and sometimes that book takes precedence. Therefore I make a point of being sure to read a story between books, as a sort of palate cleanser. But if I only read a story between books, it takes forever (3 months) to read a collection. And by the time I get to the end, I don't remember the beginning stories so clearly. Starting to see why I don't like short story collections? Oh, also, I feel like just as I'm getting to know the characters, boom, it's over. But this is all just me and my short story aversion. If you like short stories, you should read this book right away.

Now some of the stories I found most affecting were towards the end. Is that because I just don't remember the beginning ones so much? Can't say. But "Magic Words" and "Driving to the Moon" were two that I definitely wished were book-length. A couple of the stories tend towards the sad like "Intervension" and "Another Dimension" but the majority of them have at least a little of Ms. McCorkle's trademark humor. But she doesn't use the humor just as levity--it usually serves to highlight the darkness underneath or to show how some people get through difficult situations. Sure, there are a couple that tend more to the silly, like "PS" but for the most part, Ms. McCorkle's tone reminds me of the line from Steel Magnolias about how the best emotion is laughter through tears. (That's also appropriate as they share a Southern theme, too.) Superficially, these stories often appear simply and fun, but they deal with loss, death, divorce, loneliness, denial, and many other dark places. But Ms. McCorkle doesn't dwell in the dark, which I very much appreciate. Most of her characters pick themselves up and move on, often by making a little joke.

There's a lot of substance in these stories which are easy to read and digest. I wish I loved short stories. But for someone who doesn't, Jill McCorkle is still a masterful short story writer.

I've owned this book for many years. I don't remember where I got it, but I suspect I bought it.

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