It isn’t a mystery, yet in many ways, Jill McCorkle’s Hieroglyphics builds like one as characters appear, slowly reveal more of their pasts and secrets and eventually expose their connections and how the story fits together. Overlapping memories—of the things one tries to bury or make sense of—create layers of meaning for the characters and their children, whose voices compose the story with a range of experiences and perspectives. The prose is magnetic, drawing you in and holding your attention as questions slowly turn into answers.
Place functions as a link across time and between seemingly disparate lives as retirees Lil and Frank return to the site of their earlier lives in North Carolina. The early deaths of parents haunt them both. Lil dives deep into her memories, exploring moments that, perhaps, might best have been left alone. Frank keeps visiting their former home, and his presence impacts Shelley, who now lives there, in unimaginable ways as she cares for her sons and goes to work as a court stenographer each day. Shelley’s life is full of her own secrets and the stories she tells herself to make sense of them.
Each of these adults—Shelley, Frank and Lil—focuses much of their energy on making an effort to communicate with and care for their children. As the parental figures struggle with their histories, choices and actions, it is through the lens of the children that these secrets find power and meaning. This echo, this sense of connectedness, of how we care for and hurt each other, gives the novel a clear resonance.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Jill McCorkle shares how one of her father’s memories became her own.