Jill McCorkle

Lil and Frank, who each lost a parent when still a child, wed young and have aged along with their enduring marriage. Moving “home” to North Carolina after years in Boston, the retired couple faces a return to before: Lil begins sifting through letters and diaries to edit her history before passing it on to her children; Frank becomes obsessed with his childhood house, now occupied by a young single mother. At the heart of the matter is that each still yearns to understand more about the parents they lost too young. As McCorkle investigates how memory and truth are often cobbled out of bits and pieces left behind—receipts, letters, graffiti, words spoken, especially those last ones and left to interpretation—she contemplates all that we can never know about the people in our lives.

“The older I get, the more aware I am of all we cannot know in this life,” McCorkle says when explaining the genesis of the novel. “That awareness, coupled with an interest in two separate catastrophic events that happened within a year of each other, in 1942 and 1943, over 700 miles apart, led me to imagine the lives of those left behind.”

Jill McCorkle’s first two novels were released by Algonquin simultaneously when she was just out of college, and the New York Times called her “a born novelist.” 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. McCorkle was a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Fiction at Harvard, where she also chaired the department of creative writing. She is currently a faculty member of the Bennington College Writing Seminars and is affiliated with the MFA program at North Carolina State University.

Presented with Prairie Lights Books