Hieroglyphics: Book summary and reviews of Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle

Hieroglyphics

by Jill McCorkle

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle X
Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2020
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

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.

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A] moving and deeply appealing novel." - People magazine

"Engrossing...McCorkle finds an elegant mix of wistfulness and appreciation for life...Throughout, [she] weaves a powerful narrative web, with empathy for her characters and keen insight on their motivations. This is a gem." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"[An] ingenious structure...Gathers layers like a snowball racing downhill before striking us in the heart with blunt, icy force." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A powerful evocation of loss and yearning...McCorkle testifies to the ageless nobility of human beings who want the next generation to do better. A deeply moving and insightful triumph." - Booklist (starred review)

"Hieroglyphics is a novel that tugs at the deepest places of the human soul—a beautiful, heart piercing meditation on life and death and the marks we leave on this world. It is the work of a wonderful writer at her finest and most profound." - Jessica Shattuck, author of The Women in the Castle

"Jill McCorkle has long been one of our wryest, warmest, wisest storytellers. In Hieroglyphics, she takes us on through decades, through loss, through redemption, and lands in revelation and grace. As always with McCorkle, the story feels so effortless and true that we might well miss what a high-wire act she's performing. But make no mistake: She's up there without a net, she never misses a step, and it's spectacular." - Rebecca Makkai, Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Great Believers

"Hieroglyphics is suffused with a deep and heartening understanding of human resilience and strength. A beautiful and emotionally satisfying novel." - Brad Watson, author of Miss Jane

"Wise and tender, Hieroglyphics captures life itself: the experiences that shape us and bind us to one another, and the moments of terror and grace we carry in our hearts. Jill McCorkle's new novel is a triumph." - Claire Messud, author of The Burning Girl

This information about Hieroglyphics shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Gina P. (Fair Lawn, NJ)

Powerhouse read
Hieroglyphics, another powerhouse novel about family and sustainment by veteran author Jill McCorkle.

Written in a creative non-linear style centered around two families, we hear a story from multiple perspectives on age, memories, and lasting scars. McCorkle writes a thought provoking tale driven by the the sporadic memories of our 4 main characters. Each one trying in their own way to make some sense of themselves, their lives and who they are. It is a brilliantly written piece of work that takes on the heavy topics of life and death and the mystery behind what has shaped the people we have become and our perspective on how we got that way. Her characters are entrancing, insightful and yet still humanly flawed enough to take her storytelling to a whole new level. McCorkle's astute ability to portray human emotion on paper is beyond talented. Definitely worth the read. If you are a fan of literary fiction I highly recommend this book.

Jean B. (Naples, FL)

Hieroglyphics
I marveled, while reading this book, about the extraordinary talent of Jill McCorkle, the author. Still, it was not an easy book to read during the isolating time of the pandemic. Much of this book is so sad. McCorkle writes about an elderly couple, Lil and Frank, and a young woman, Shelley, and her son Harvey. She tells the story in their thoughts and words. Lil and Frank were deeply wounded during their childhoods by the loss of a parent. Shelley's childhood was horrific and her young son develops an obsession with horrible stories.

The sadness of the book is offset by the beautiful prose. The author creates characters, especially Lil, who become real to the reader. After her mother died Lil's father would not have a Christmas tree. The child, Lil, looked at a beautiful tree in the window of a home she walked by on her way to school. "...it became my tree and was a bright spot in my day." But January and February passed and the tree still stood. Lil: it was a lesson to me how hanging on to something long after the fact can diminish the power of what was. It's where memory comes in, I guess, the abstract strength of what is no longer there..."

This is a beautifully thoughtful book.

Mary S. (Hilton Head Island, SC)

Couldn't Put It Down!
Because of the state of the world with a virus, politics, riots, etc., it took me longer than usual to start reading this book. I read it from cover to cover in about 5 hours!! The story, the writing-- everything was first class. Perhaps it had the added impact on me because of the time of life I am experiencing at the moment, but it was easy for me to identify with the characters and the lives they were attempting to navigate through. A must read for anyone who wants to read something different, but also entertaining and exceedingly enjoyable.

Janet O. (Beaverton, OR)

Hieroglyphics
From the very first chapters of Hieroglyphics I was engaged. Good character development is always important to fiction but especially during this time of quarantine when our social interactions are limited, the opportunity to "interact" with others was appreciated. All four of the people to whom we are introduced are memorable and interesting, but I fell in love with Lil and consider her to be my new best literary friend. She alone speaks in the first person as she tries to make sense of the "bits and pieces" or "hieroglyphics" of her life. In a type of journal she is writing for her daughter she reflects on the tragedies and joys of a life well lived. She tells her story with humility and a sense of humor which were reminiscent of the musings of "Olive Kitteridge". This is a book about families, challenges and the power of love and kindness. I highly recommend it.

Carole P. (Natick, MA)

Hieroglyphics
I will admit to a little difficulty getting in to this book. I normally don't enjoy books that jump back and forth as this one did. Then I was hooked and couldn't stop reading it. Nor did I want it to end. Jill McCorkle is an exceptional writer. I found myself identifying with all the characters and saying "yes that's right ". Sometimes it seemed I was reading about myself . As always her books have depth and are multilayered. It makes me think of weaving . All those strands end up with a beautiful story.

Lauren T. (Orlando, FL)

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle
It's rare to read a book and see yourself on every page. I said, "Exactly!" or "Me too!" very often while reading this novel. Hieroglyphics takes place during what seems to be a fairly short period in the lives of Lil and Frank, an elderly couple who have retired to North Carolina from Massachusetts to be close to their daughter. We learn about Lil and Frank's relationship and life stories both from current events, such as Frank's interactions with a family living in the house he grew up in, and from Lil's journal entries. There are some surprises, but what I enjoyed most about this book was the familiarity of their thoughts and feelings. Jill McCorkle is a wonderful writer, and in Hieroglyphics she has once again given us her best.

...21 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Jill McCorkle Author Biography

Jill McCorkle's first two novels were released simultaneously when she was just out of college, and the New York Times called her "a born novelist." Since then, she has published six novels and four collections of short stories, and her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories several times, as well as The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Five of her books have been New York Times Notable books, and her most recent novel, Life After Life, was a New York Times bestseller. She has received the New England Booksellers Award, the John Dos Passos Prize for Excellence in Literature, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. She has written for the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Garden and Gun, the Atlantic, and other publications.

She was a ...

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