Hieroglyphics; Jill McCorkle
Algonquin - 2020
Hieroglyphics is the story of 4 lives shaped by past trauma.
Frank and Lil are an elderly couple in their 80s from Massachusetts, now residing in North Carolina, to be closer to their daughter Becca. Frank was a former history professor and Lil a former dance instructor. Frank's father died in a train derailment and his mother severely injured, just before Christmas when Frank was a young boy staying with his grandmother. Lil's mother died in a nightclub fire when she was young and, she has never made peace with her death as she didn't understand why her mother was at the Coconut Grove nightclub in the first place.
Shelley, in an overly nervous court stenographer and single mother to an older son, as well as 6 year old Harvey. Harvey is overly anxious, scared of ghosts, somewhat eccentric and inappropriate at school. It's an issue which has put additional stress on his already frazzled mother.
The chapters alternate between the characters and, the story made me think about just how much our present happiness or unhappiness results from childhood joy or trauma. Who would I have become and what would my happiness factor have been if all those stars had been perfectly aligned?
The writing style definitely takes some getting used to, but the writing is thought provoking - a beautiful example of literary fiction. Hieroglyphics is a multi-layered, slow build story that makes the reader think about their own mortality with its themes of grief, loss, secrets and redemption. This is my second novel by Jill McCorkle, I do love her writing. Life After Life is another thoughtful novel of hers that I enjoyed back in 2014.
Rating - 4.5/5 stars