Monday, June 8, 2009

Review: If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?


I’m generally not a reader of short story collections, and I have mixed feelings about them. On the one hand, I finish a story feeling unsatisfied and wishing to know more about the characters that I got to know so well. On the other hand, I understand short stories, from a literary perspective—how all it takes is several pages to make a point. And generally, I remember short stories long after I read them.

I was most excited to meet Jill McCorkle at BEA, as I have read some of her other novels. She has a unique southern voice, one that does not just speak from broad generalizations and stereotypes about how people are in the South. She describes southerners without mentioning they’re southerners. Yet the characters in her newest short story collection, Going Away Shoes, contain a voice that could be any woman, southern or not.
Going Away Shoes sticks to one pretty basic theme throughout all of its eleven stories: women wanting out, or, as the back of the book describes, “women looking love in the face without flinching.” From the opening story of a woman trapped as her mother’s caretaker to the closing story of a woman’s imaginary perfect man, McCorkle describes women—sisters, mothers, wives, divorcees, and singletons—who know what they want and aren’t afraid to hide behind their mistakes.
McCorkle seems to have a gift with American short fiction, as stories from this collection have been featured in the Best American Short Stories series and New Stories from the South: the Year’s Best. She tackles weighty subjects with wit and poise, creating a perfect balance between comedy and tragedy that will keep the reader entertained. And as a bonus, these stories were the perfect length for my daily commute on public transportation.
Two of the stories can be found online:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
272 pages, Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-56512-632-9


Salvatore said…

Is this kind of women's fiction? Just because I don't think I've really ever heard of women's fiction in short form.

Kari said…

I'd say yes. Definitely not chick-lit.