Author: Jill McCorkle
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication date: July 28th, 2020
Lil and Frank married young, launched into courtship when they bonded over how they both—suddenly, tragically—lost a parent when they were children. Over time, their marriage grew and strengthened, with each still wishing for so much more understanding of the parents they’d lost prematurely.
Now, after many years in Boston, they have retired in North Carolina. There, Lil, determined to leave a history for their children, sifts through letters and notes and diary entries—perhaps revealing more secrets than Frank wants their children to know. Meanwhile, Frank has become obsessed with what might have been left behind at the house he lived in as a boy on the outskirts of town, where a young single mother, Shelley, is just trying to raise her son with some sense of normalcy. Frank’s repeated visits to Shelley’s house begin to trigger memories of her own family, memories that she’d rather forget. Because, after all, not all parents are ones you wish to remember.
Hieroglyphics reveals the difficulty of ever really knowing the intentions and dreams and secrets of the people who raised you. In her deeply layered and masterful novel, Jill McCorkle deconstructs and reconstructs what it means to be a father or a mother, and what it means to be a child piecing together the world all around us, a child learning to make sense of the hieroglyphics of history and memory.
Hieroglyphics is told from three POVs, Lil, Frank (who are married), and Shelley. The timeline skips around a lot, so sometimes it’s the present and sometimes it’s the past. Lil’s story is told through journal entries, whereas Frank & Shelley’s are told through narration. Shelley lives in Frank’s childhood home, and this is the connecting factor between their stories. It’s a powerful story about their lives, childhood, growing & changing, and hiding from the past.
The ending of this book was fabulous. Some books are meant to have an ending that leaves you to draw your own conclusions, and that’s exactly what Hieroglyphics does. It’s not a true conclusion, but it didn’t leave you hanging. It ended just like life does, abruptly & without warning but with the overall sense that everything will be okay. And that was beautiful.
I had a hard time with the shifting timelines in this book, but if this is something you like & are used to then it shouldn’t stop you from reading this book. The writing, though amazing, rambles at times – but I believe it’s meant to be indicative of the person’s state of mind at the time. It does serve this purpose & give depth to the story but it also made it hard for me to focus on the plot.
At times each story was so heartbreaking and moving that it was even hard to read. It just showed how much people go through in life, and how often people hide from their past. But this book relives the past, celebrates it, because the journey to the end of the magical part even if it doesn’t go as planned. Reading the three characters growth over time was an experience that I’m not used to as Hieroglyphics is out of my normal genre. But at the end, you really see exactly what all the build up was for, and it was worth it.
Thank you to Algonquin Books for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Happy reading, folks!