Beloved author Jill McCorkle delivers a collection of masterful stories that are as complex as novels—deeply perceptive, funny, and tragic in equal measure—about crimes large and small.
Jill McCorkle, author of the New York Times bestselling Life After Life and the widely acclaimed Hieroglyphics (“One of our wryest, warmest, wisest storytellers” —Rebecca Makkai), brings us a breathtaking collection of stories that offers an intimate look at the moments when a person’s life changes forever.
Old Crimes delves into the lives of characters who hold their secrets and misdeeds close, even as the past continues to reverberate over time and across generations. And despite the characters’ yearnings for connection, they can’t seem to tell the whole truth. In “Low Tones,” a woman uses her hearing impairment as a way to guard herself from her husband’s commentary. In “Lineman,” a telephone lineman strains to connect to his family even as he feels pushed aside in a digital world. In “Confessional,” a young couple buys a confessional booth for fun, only to discover the cost of honesty.
Profoundly moving and unforgettable, for fans of Alice Munro, Elizabeth Strout, and Lily King, the stories in Old Crimes reveal why McCorkle has long been considered a master of the form, probing lives full of great intensity, longing and affection, and deep regret.
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"A splendid, wide-ranging collection that once again proves McCorkle is a master of the form."
—Jenny Offill, author of Weather
“Jill McCorkle has had an extraordinary ear for the music of ordinary life since the beginning of her career, able to work with the voices we know so well to write these stories about they will not tell us, what they would rather not tell us, what they hope to tell us, what too often goes unsaid. And this collection is a new wonder.”
—Alexander Chee, author of How to Write An Autobiographical Novel
"With her wry humor, deep understanding of human connection and disconnection, and a tremendous sense of fun, Jill McCorkle has given us another dazzling collection of stories.”
―Lily King, author of Five Tuesdays in Winter
Praise for Old Crimes
"Wonderfully rich and emotionally complicated stories . . . McCorkle is a brilliant storyteller who makes use of the retrospective voice at key moments and employs peripheral characters as narrators to underscore the extent to which trauma and regret cast long shadows. The past is never too far from the present.”
Kirkus, starred review
“Gorgeous . . . Each story is powerful individually, but it is the building momentum that makes the collection so strong
. . . Often funny, evenly darkly comic at times, McCorkle's memorable collection calls to mind Alice Munro and Charles Baxter.”
Booklist, starred review
“McCorkle serves up plenty of humor and heartache each time she weaves a tale of interconnected relationships, and often pushes her stories toward empathetic and surprising climaxes. McCorkle fans will gobble this up.”
A mesmerizing novel about the burden of secrets carried across generations.
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’ve retired to 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 hoped to keep buried. Because, after all, not all parents are ones you wish to remember.
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 around us, a child learning to make sense of the hieroglyphics of history and memory.
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“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 Believer
Now in Paperback
Praise for Hieroglyphics
“Vibrant, engaging . . . McCorkle, a generous, humane writer, knows that facing death allows us, as this terrible pandemic has, to focus on what is essential: how to take care of our vulnerable, and to appreciate the connections that sustain us.”
“A moving and deeply appealing novel.”
“A bard of Southern fiction weaves a layered tale around a married couple who retire from Boston to North Carolina amid a beehive of secrets. A hidden journal, a childhood house, a long-ago fire: All emerge as keys and touchstones in McCorkle’s shimmering prose.”
The New York Times
O, The Oprah Magazine
About Jill McCorkle
Jill McCorkle has the distinction of having published her first two novels on the same day in 1984. Of these novels, The New York Times Book Review said: “One suspects the author of The Cheer Leader is a born novelist. With July 7th, she is also a full grown one.” Since then she has published five other novels—most recently published is Hieroglyphics (2020, Algonquin Books)—and five collections of short stories (Old Crimes, 2024). Five of her books have been named New York Times notable books and four of her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories. An essay, “Cuss Time,” originally published in The American Scholar, was selected for Best American Essays. McCorkle has received the New England Booksellers Award, the John Dos PassosPrize for Excellence in Literature, the North Carolina Award for Literature, and the Thomas Wolfe Prize; she was recently inducted into the NC Literary Hall of Fame. McCorkle has taught at Harvard, Brandeis University, NC State University, and the Bennington Writing Seminars.
Credit: Tom Rankin