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.

Rating: BACKLIST

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

10 comments:

jewwishes said...

I agree on reading something that takes you away. I am the same way with books...and lately have found some to be lacking in that "pop".

Good review, Marie!

bermudaonion said...

Sorry this didn't work for you. I heard Jill McCorkle read from it and I think I'll hear her accent in my head when I read it, which will hopefully add to my enjoyment.

King Rat said...

I won't read more stories about women's relationships with their mothers and/or sisters unless there's something truly extraordinary about the people. Nor do I want to read any more stories of middle aged men coming to terms with the drabness of their lives (Richard Russo listen up!).

Zibilee said...

I think I am much like you in terms of wanting to read about experiences that are much different than my own and others I know. I think my favorite books are the ones that enlighten me about some area that I have not been exposed to or situations that are out of the everyday norm. At times I do enjoy a read that deals with the mundane situations in life, but often I become bored in the midst of reads like that. That being said, I 'm sorry this book didn't knock your socks off, but I did appreciate your honesty.

Literary Feline said...

I'm sorry this one fell flat for you, Marie. I've really had good luck with the short story collections I've read recently, especially considering how reluctant I can be to read them at times. I may give this one a try. I do occasionally enjoy reading about ordinary life. Just as long as it isn't my own. Now that would be quite dull! LOL

moazzam sheikh said...

ah, that brings to mind the 'snide' remark by an ex nobel dude about american writing in general less sophisticated compared to its european counterpart and shallow, devoid of politics. i'd highly recommend daniel alarcon's collection: war by candlelight. and also, essence of camphor by naiyer masud.

Marie said...

Moazzam- Engdahl? Yeah. I kind of agree with him. :-) Thanks for the recommendations.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I haven't yet read this, but I have it in my to-be-read stack. I think I'll enjoy it (sometimes nodding along with a character is good for me).

I heard an anecdote about McCorkle this weekend. She was asked how she found the time to write when she had young children, and replied that she used to tell her husband she was going to the grocery store and would sit in the car in the parking lot and write. Apparently he never did the shopping and didn't know how long a trip to the supermarket was supposed to take :)

S. Krishna said...

Hmm...I think I'll pass on this one. Thanks for the honest review.

Anna said...

I'm very picky when it comes to short stories, so hearing this one is "bland" makes me unsure about it. Thanks for the honest review.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric