Cover Image: Old Crimes

Old Crimes

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Member Reviews

A quick and easy read, these short stories will suck you in and satisfy you in just a few pages. I loved the emotional resonance of each one, and even though the characters are often unsympathetic, you can't help but be moved by their stores. McCorkle's writing is truly special.

Thanks to Algonquin for the copy to review.

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Old Crimes was a great story collection by Jill McCorkle. I appreciated the author's writing and liked to dip in and out of reading this. I would read more from McCorkle.

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Thank you Algonquin Books for allowing me to read and review Old Crimes and Other Stories on NetGalley.

Published: 01/09/24

Stars: 2.5

Not for me. The stories were just meh. Unfortunately, if these were published in a magazine and I read one, it's okay and I move on. But, when there is a collection and the stories are read back-to-back, the author's name takes on new meaning. I am generally speaking a fan of short stories; however, not these. While the characters and stories are now a blur, the author's name isn't. Each tale had a victim and each tale was depressing, and frankly I was exhausted.

I'm not sure who this is written for.

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Published by Algonquin Books on January 9, 2024

Most of the stories in Old Crimes feature women who have reached or lived beyond middle age. An exception is “Filling Station,” a story about a man in his sixties who rents a room in a house where his grandparents used to live, a house that has been converted into a gas station. The room is an excuse to stay away from his wife, as is the time he devotes to a dying high school teacher he regards as a mentor. The other exception follows “a lineman for the county” who prides himself on his competence (he’ll survive the coming apocalypse because he is good with tools and knows how things work) but regrets his failure to make his relationships work.

“Low Tones” is the story of a woman who isn’t prepared to be old. She can no longer hear low frequencies, a convenient excuse for developing a case of selective hearing. She regrets the moments in her life when she wasn’t the person she wanted to be. Her husband has “a bad illness that leaves him making hand signals” and she doesn’t know if she can cope with him. Cancer has reached his brain and makes him say awful things to her, although he’s always been abusive. She’s annoyed by the young people she sees making out in a truck and feels empathy for an unrepentant woman who murdered her husband. I think the point of the story is that life doesn’t always turn out as one hopes, and never will if we don’t take control of it while we still can.

My favorite in this collection is “Commandments.” Three women meet regularly to gripe about the man who dated and dumped them all. They all aspired to be pampered for the rest of their lives by a rich man but none of them succeeded. This seems less than tragic, given that they all appear to have achieved pampering by less wealthy but comfortably affluent men. Each woman has been in therapy but they disregard their therapists’ advice to move on with their lives and devote their meetings to “beating that decayed horse down to its bare bones.” The story works because the waitress who brings their lunch is more interesting than the three women. She doesn’t seem to envy their designer clothes and purses. She knows the man they hate, recognizes him as an asshole, and governs herself accordingly. The waitress — “a living Bible of truth and common sense” — teaches a good lesson about karma and wisdom that surpasses anything the women have heard from their therapists.

The protagonist in “Swinger” is “the kind of invisible woman who might be referred to as sturdy or dependable, smart and practical.” She was living with a married man, waiting for him to get divorced, for three years before he died. The man had Polaroids of naked women that he kept in a shoe box, photos of his conquests, but never took one of her and now never will. An encounter with a burglar at the novel’s end gives the story a heartening twist.

A woman who got a divorce, relocated with the kids, found a new job, and dealt with the death of her father and decline of her mother never had time to have the breakdown she deserved. In “Sparrow,” memories of the past (including an old story about a boy’s disappearance that still haunts the town to which the woman moves) interweave with experiences in the present (including speculative whispers about the death of a young mother and her son). The story ends with a suspected child snatching. The point of the story seems to be that people want to keep themselves and their children safe but have no idea how to do it.

The other stories in the book are well crafted but I found them to be of less interest. A woman realizes that “evil and violent things” have always happened and always will. The purchase of an old confessional prompts characters to speak of their relatively inconsequential sins. A retired school librarian tries to teach biblical values to Bible-belters who don’t want to feed or educate children. A family gathering causes a drama teacher to see life as a play that is well into its third act. These and other stories are devoted to insightful character building, but they generally seemed longer than necessary, given how little the characters do after they are built. Still, the best stories in the collection make the book worth reading.


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Old Crimes is a collection of stories by Jill McCorkle that share nostalgia: a longing for all times, an antique confessional, landlines, ephemera on display at a B&B, memories of a college romance, regrets about an old boyfriend. The past looms heavily for characters who have had bad relationships, abuse, lost love ones.

My favorite character, however, is Candy in the story Commandments. She works at a cafe where a group of women who share the same ex meet to gripe about him. The server is young and covered in tattoos of her favorite sayings and bits of advice. She’s a reminder that there’s more to living in the past.

I received an ARC copy of this book from Algonquin Books in exchange for my honest review.

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I struggled to get into this set of stories, but there were several toward the end that I enjoyed and captured my interest.

I’d like to read another of this author’s work to see if something else grabs me a bit more.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for the ARC.

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Written with wisdom, much emotional depth and insight, the stories in Old Crimes: and Other Stories by Jill McCorkle depict how secrets, mistakes, and regrets can leave an indelible impact on the human psyche and relationships. Despite the short length of each of these stories, they are emotionally heavy reads that inspire pause and reflection.

In turn profoundly insightful, heartbreaking yet reflective and thought-provoking, these stories explore the human condition through complex yet real and relatable characters in various stages of life. The common thread among these stories is deep-rooted sorrow, loneliness and the desire for human connection, the life changing consequences of the choices people make and the emotions they choose to internalize – voluntarily or otherwise – the “crimes’’ they commit toward oneself and those they hold dear. Few of the characters appear in more than one story, allowing us to explore their character arcs from different vantage points. The tone of these stories ranges from melancholic to nostalgic and contemplative though there are some moments of humor to be within the pages as well . Overall, I found this to be an impactful and exceptionally well-written collection of short stories that I would not hesitate to recommend this collection to those who enjoy character-driven short fiction.

Many thanks to Algonquin Books for both the digital review copy via NetGalley and the physical ARC. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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Old Crimes is a poignant collection of short stories that follow characters who’ve endured life-altering events and hold their trauma and regrets close. McCorkle explores the guilt of motherhood, complicated relationships, feelings of inadequacy and isolation, the price of honesty, and many more relatable themes. Perfectly capturing the essence of the human condition, these stories are emotional, witty, and unforgettable.

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In this collection of short stories, Jill McCorkle introduces us to some very memorable characters. There’s Loris, who was named after a town in South Carolina. Lynn, who isn’t very impressed with her boyfriend or the resort he’s taken her to. And Ricky, who just wants to feel important again, even if he isn’t on Facebook. Each of these characters struggles with their own life-changing events, causing them to feel isolated and alone. It’s only the reader who is allowed to see the truth - how intricately connected all the characters really are.

Even at our lowest points, when we feel our most rejected and desolate, we are never truly alone. McCorkle subtly weaves this reminder through each and every one of these well-crafted, complex tales. A definite read for short story fans, I highly recommend.

Thanks to Jill McCorkle, Algonquin Books and Netgalley for this ARC in return for my honest review.

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I have been a fan of Jill McCorkles writing for years, so it's no surprise that I loved this story collection .McCorkle has a way of drawing you into the story quickly with her character building. You can't help but root for her all too human characters. She reminds you with her enthralling language and her sharp detail to tiny, visual things, that we are all wonderfully human. And she will remind you why we love being human. Thank You to the publisher and netgalley for an early ARC.

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"Old Crimes" was a pleasure to read, far exceeding my expectations for this collection! As a fan of Jill McCorkle's novels, I was looking forward to reading these short stories and sincerely appreciate #NetGalley for providing an advance reader copy via their app and #AlgonquinBooks for mailing out a physical copy. The latter was especially useful as I learned partway through the book that these individual stories comprised a linked collection (my absolute favorite genre!!) and featured repeating characters and locations that took on layered meaning as they were viewed in relation to the entire collection..

The title story--"Old Crimes"--referred, intermittently, to actual crimes mentioned within a few stories, but was also a metaphor for the emotional crimes that occur, over time, in all families. In "Act III" the next to final story in the collection, this wonderful passage served as a great summary: ""And now Vera is seeing all of life as a play. Someone, Capote maybe, said that 'Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.' So, maybe this is Act III. Call it: Family Gathering at the Inn: Act I, 'The Early Years'; Act II, 'The Kids Leave the Nest'; Act III,' They All Return.'"

My personal favorites were "The Lineman"/"Low Tones" (Loris!)/"Filling Station" and the final story "Sparrow" which featured a community abuzz with gossip about the deaths of a mother and her son. The narrator, who is slowly assimilating into the new community via her son's baseball games, felt vulnerable and the people with whom she interacted, especially "Patrick's grandmother" were beautifully written and not all who they seemed to be. Without spoiling any stories, or the threads within, I just loved this collection -- I love the linked storytelling style perfected by writers like Liz Strout, Jennifer Egan, and Melissa Bank, and I strongly recommend this book. Thanks again to #NetGalley for the chance to review it.

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You have to swoon over a character who has quotes from Charlotte’s Web tattooed on her arm, whose life was changed by a book read by a librarian.

The characters in these stories are humanely rendered with great sympathy and insight. They make you laugh and bring tears.

There is the sister who sticks a needle into her brother’s condoms because she wants his girlfriend as a sister-in-law. And the mother who considers her gathered family and imagines a Rod Serling voiceover narrating the truth she is hiding from them.

Life is filled with unsolved mysteries, crimes unsolved, innocent people sacrificed, a young woman thinks. A lineman recalls learning his ‘sister’ was really his mother as he dwells on the tenuous lines of communication. A man esteemed by the community is abusive behind closed doors. Women gather in spiteful gossip sessions to trash the man who dumped them.

With complex and relatable characters and conjuring emotions from laughter to sadness, I loved these stories.

Thanks to the publisher for a free book.

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This is a short story collection about ordinary people and all have something to do with a minor crime but mostly they are about human interaction my favorite story was the one about Tori and her strange mom who really wasn’t all that strange to begin with my least favorite was the one about candy and her mom I found candy to be a very mean person and I almost couldn’t finish that short story the rest of the stories are really good and I enjoyed them if you like short stories you will definitely like Old Crimes by Jill McCorkle I certainly did I know they have a lot of people like me who love short stories this is definitely a great one to read. I want to think the publisher and net galley for my free arc copy please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.

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See full review in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

To call “Old Crimes: And Other Stories” a compilation of independent narratives is to diminish Jill McCorkle’s evocative statement on the interconnected nature of human suffering. These 12 intimate snapshots focus on the interior experiences of melancholy characters as they excavate internal pain. Each story relates to Southern teachers in some small way, many of whom have spent time in the North. Steeped in loneliness while drilling straight to the heart of emotion, these standalone narratives collectively deliver a stunning study on the shared experience of isolation...

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Twelve perfect short stories from a master. These gems are indeed about old crimes, old regrets, old decisions the protagonists might want to change but they're also about relationships. Each one features a character you will recognize- and hopefully will sympathize with but certainly will think about. They aren't linked, per se, but there are a couple with echos. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. I usually recommend reading short story collections one story at a time but I'll confess- I gulped this down. Terrific.

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Jill McCorkle has written another wonderful book of short stories.I’ve been a fan of hers since I read her first books .She always draws me in keeps me engaged and entertained.Each story compelling unique involving.#netgalley #algonquinbooks.

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These stories were so good! I was unaware of this author but had to try these stories after seeing to which authors she was compared and now I can't wait to read more from her. A lot of the stories were small town americana, and I just enjoyed them immensely. So well written.... I definitely recommend this one!

Old Crimes comes out next week on January 9, 2024, and you can purchase HERE!

"Eventually," I said, waiting for her to look at me, her eyes the same shade of blue as my mother's, "we'll just have one long finger to push buttons and our arms and legs will start to disappear because we don't use them and the brain will dry up until it's about the size of a chicken brain with the attention span of one minute-little one-track-little tweet tweet." She rolled her eyes at me, phone there on her leg where she'd doodled all over her blue jeans in ink: a star, a flower, somebody's initials. Her phone lit up and made sounds every few minutes, until she finally sighed and said excuse her for one sec while she let her friends know why she wasn't answering. I didn't want to imagine what she was writing back to them, so just continued my own thought of what the future might hold: single-lane highways with no place for detours or a U-turn. No place to safely break down. No way to prepare for the big blackout.

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Simply put, OLD CRIMES is a wonderful short story collection, and I highly recommend it for fans of literary fiction. Jill McCorkle has been a longtime favorite of mine so I was delighted to see that she has a new collection out. Sometimes there can be a staleness if older stories are brought out again; however, I did not notice that here. In fact, I don't know if these are new or old stories or a combination. McCorkle's writing and character insights remain fresh. I especially appreciate her psychological insights and deft turns of phrase. She can turn an everyday situation into something meaningful and memorable. Each of these stories feels carefully crafted and the theme of "crimes" serves well to unify the collection.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-galley; all opinions in this review are my own.

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My love for the short story format is well-documented. My love for the way Jill McCorkle uses language is well-documented. So to absolutely no one's surprise, I love her latest collection of short stories, Old Crimes.

I describe McCorkle's writing as southern women's fiction and, honestly, I am not entirely sure what I mean by that term but I am sticking with it. Obviously, I prefer genre fiction. But there is something about the way McCorkle writes which sings to my soul. I can't guarantee it will sing to yours in the same way but I do hope that as a reader, you will find those authors who speak straight to your core, bypassing all your thoughts and emotions and expectations. And if you write, I hope you find the readers who read your words, not with their eyes or ears, but with their entire being.

These stories are gritty. They aren't happy but hope is not entirely absent. If I describe them to you, you will wonder why I love them so much. They don't sound like my usual fare. But oh how they capture the essence of life. If certain authors and readers are soulmates, McCorkle is mine. I am grateful her words have enriched my entire adult life. Thank you to the author, Algonquin Books & NetGalley for the eARC.

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Another fine example of a collection of short stories that ends up being more work than a novel of similar length, as each story is complete, requiring a reader to pick up and haul every twenty pages or so. There is even some crossover between several of the stories, but using Act III as an example, there are enough characters to fill an entire volume, each clearly defined, and a wish to know more.

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