Tuesday, October 13, 2009

REVIEW: Going Away Shoes, stories by Jill McCorkle

Going Away Shoes, stories by Jill McCorkle. Published 2009 by Algonquin.

Going Away Shoes is an elegant and moving collection of short stories by writer Jill McCorkle. The stories all focus on women in middle age, trapped or stuck in some kind of relationship- with a dying mother or ex-lover, a misbehaving granddaughter or even an ex-therapist who still has an emotional hold over his patient.

Personally, I found the book to be a little bland. No doubt well-crafted and absorbing, it would appeal to readers of popular fiction and light literary fiction with a taste for books about women and I like the way McCorkle elevates everyday lives through her excellent writing and respect for her characters. Even the funniest story, "PS," which consists of a letter by an ex-wife to her ex-therapist, just pokes gentle fun at therapy and even divorce.

I think though that for me, stories about everyday people just often lack the snap I look for in literature. When I read, I want to read about something outside my life, something that takes me away- to a different time, culture or setting. There are a number of really excellent writers who write very movingly about ordinary life (Roland Merullo, Stewart O'Nan, and McCorkle, among others) but although I admire their craft the work itself just doesn't get me going. Such is the case with Going Away Shoes. I do think a lot of readers would enjoy it and that it might even make a great book club pick, the stories being primarily character- and relationship-driven. There's certainly a lot to talk about- thorny dilemmas, difficult families and complicated lives. It's a thoughful and thought-provoking collection- if, for me, just not very exciting.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.