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Short Story Collection Review   

 

Creatures of Habit: Stories
By Jill McCorkle
Algonquin Books, 2001
ISBN: 1-56512-256-9

 

 
 

Creatures of Habit is flawless.

The twelve stories included in the collection take readers back to Jill McCorkle's longtime fictional hometown, Fulton, North Carolina. Each story is named for an animal and the people in these stories are mammalian, reptilian, an occasion, birdlike. The characters remind us of how closely humans live with animals and question who IS the lesser species.

Caroline and Danny, the two young characters in "Snipe," have heard about snipe hunts all of their lives and waited anxiously to enter into the family tradition. What they don't realize is the family has protected them from ugly truths and the uncertainty truth can bring into their lives. The terror they experience on their first snipe hunt is an unkind initiation at the hands of people they love.

"Hominoids" is a story for every woman who has ever felt her body is inadequate. Told from a first person point of the view, the female narrator is fed up with her husband's hunting buddies, their trips to Hooter's, and their public discussions about women's breasts. At the men's once-a-year get together including "the wives," she re-opens old wounds and reinvigorates age-old battles between the sexes with her less than subtle feminism. The evening winds down with an uneasy truce.

Jill McCorkle's characters never lose their sense of humor or the absurd. In "Billy Goats," the adult character remembers his life as a seventh grader, "too old for kick the can and too young to make out." The single mother employed by the leering veterinarian in "Dogs" confesses, "If I were a dog, I would have been put down by now."

The author has created characters who are clueless, charming, flawed, animated, and endearing, who explore the human experience with comedy, tragedy, gleaning small truths the hard way.

Five of Jill McCorkle's previous books have been named New York Times notables. She has been the winner of the New England Booksellers Award, the Dos Passos Prize for Excellence in Literature, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. She has taught writing at the University of North Carolina, Bennington College, Tufts University, and Harvard. She lives near Boston with her husband, their two children, several dogs, and their collection of toads.

 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews
 

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