HIEROGLYPHICS - Jill McCorkle
Reflections on memory, the layers of self that make up who we are, and the sense of mortality at the heart of what it means to be human. This was a heavy and contemplative read.
Pacing: ★★★ (a little slow for me)
Hieroglyphics has a title that makes you think of history. And not just any history, but ancient history. This was clearly intentional, and also relied on the other aspect of a hieroglyphic: the fact that they're pictures displaying stories, the written word, and that their interpretation varies.
My standard review format seems off in this case. It's not a standard novel.
Imagine if you could walk through the mind of your grandmother, your grandfather. What would you see? A haze of distant memories, maybe. Or a winding path cluttered on either side with the small details of millions of moments. Or, just maybe, the space is crystal clear: everything in its place, everything lovingly polished with the element of remembering.
This novel follows the story of an elderly couple, Lil and Frank, and their continuous musings on what it means to remember, what is important about what they're remembering, and how they want to be remembered. If that sounds like a twisting, continuous loop—you'd be right. By the end of this novel I felt like I WAS Lil and Frank. I'd lived their memories and breathed their thoughts and felt the core of their beings from page to page. McCorkle's writing is phenomenal in this, even when she's scraping apart her characters skin layer by skin layer to expose them to the elements of time.
Another element of this novel was Shelley, a woman younger than Lil and Frank, but no less focused on her own memories, pasts, and looping concepts of life. She's the current owner of Frank's childhood home, and when Frank stops by to ask her to let him wander about—to remember, obviously—she doesn't let him in because of her own reasons. This relationship develops through long vignettes of Shelley's experience, her son Harvey's experience and his feelings about ghosts, and through Frank and Lil themselves.
An interesting, thought provoking read that's meant to make us hyper aware of not only our mortality, but also of that old phrase: When an old person dies, a library burns to the ground.
Thank you to Algonquin Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.