Aside from two fully employed adults, our home houses several thousand books. Because we don’t practice the “one in, one out” philosophy in acquiring them, the books overfill the shelves and are stacked on flat surfaces around our home. Yet, I often can’t resist picking up another book I haven’t read from the 25 cent table at my favorite book store or a pile at a library sale. Thus this series, “Off My Shelf,” where I take a book from a shelf or a pile, read (or reread it) and decide whether it stays or goes.
It’s irritating to open a book on a weekend afternoon expecting a light, romantic escape to find instead a dour literary novel with a disconcerting habit of bouncing around from one point of view and verb tense to another.
Such a novel is Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch.
From the description of Sarah, the main character, as "one of the funniest and most sympathetic literary heroines in years" and Crouch's wry opening description of Sarah’s Cotillion experience, I thought I was going to read a light novel about a plucky Southern girl who gets the wind knocked out of her up North and goes home to recover. Maybe there would be some romance? Indeed, the blurbs on the book jacket promised a charming book from a writer who was “damn funny”.
I feel punk’d.
Crouch does a fine job in the early chapters as Sarah suffers the indignities of the Cotillion, the training ground where Charleston girls become Charleston women. She deftly contrasts the two sisters, Sarah and Eloise, who struggle to escape ‘yokel land’.
However, the tone changes about a quarter of the way through the book, the point of view turns from first person to third and the tense from past to present for a chapter. When the author returns to first person past tense, Sarah gets involved in a relationship that leaves her both psychically and physically battered and the whole book takes a shrieking turn into territory I was not ready to travel.
As the novel progresses, the author switches among not only different points of view but point of view characters as well to tell what is primarily Sarah's story. This tactic does illuminate some of Sarah's experience, but at the end of the novel I am still puzzled as to why Sarah made the choices she did and I end up not caring that much about her at all.
If I don't engage with the character, if I don't enjoy the story, if none of the words are notable enough to add to my commonplace book---it's three strikes and this one is out.