Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review: Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch

Southern women are concerned about appearances.  We desire to project perfection especially in our relationships, which are often imperfect, leading us to drink copiously, gossip, and finally enter therapy.  There is nothing worse to a Southern woman than the shame of others discovering the cracks in her façade.  Despite the image touted by the popular movie Steel Magnolias, Southern women are not impenetrable.  They are just better at hiding their gaffes than other women. 

Southern women also love their men - despite their flaws.  In fact, the more flaws they have, the more we think we can fix them.

Katie Crouch understands Southern women.  Her novel, Girls in Trucks, is not a feel-good Southern romance but a hard look at the ties that bind Southern women to their hometowns.  The novel tells the story of Sarah Walters as she attempts to reconcile her Southern roots with her Northern, New York City adult life.  Sarah is a lifelong member of the Camellias, Charleston, South Carolina's elite group of Southern debutantes.  The Camillas are not a group you can join - you are born into it - and its members are your friends for the rest of your life - even though you may not like them half the time.  In spite of their differences, the friends that continually reappear in Sarah's life are her fellow Camellias, Charlotte, Annie, and Bitsy.  Girls in Trucks is as much their story as it is hers.  

The novel follows Sarah through a rough timeline from age nine and Cotillion School to age thirty-five and the desperate desire to find "the one."  The perspective in the novel occasionally shifts, reflecting Sarah's comfort level with the situation.  Like most teens, she is fully immersed in "I," but as she grows older and is faced with situations such as the death of a close friend, she distances herself from the experience by using third person.  Surprisingly, this shift is not irritating; it feels honest.  Like a good Southern woman, Sarah attempts to compartmentalize rather than deal with the truths raised by abuse, infidelity, death, suicide, and pregnancy.  Readers looking for a "happy" ending should not expect to find it here; however, like most good novels, the conclusion emphasizes living in the present moment and finding hope in the future.

Best matched with a glass of sweet iced tea...or a gin and tonic.

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