Crash Diet

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jill McCorkle’s first collection of short stories reveals an author intensely connected to the lives of women. In the eleven short stories that compose CRASH DIET, McCorkle plays a chameleon, speaking through teenage, young adult, married, divorced, and widowed voices.

Her characters overflow with honesty. They are trying to make the best of some of the unwise choices they made in the past, or they are trying to grow out of the awkward present into a more comfortable selfhood. Sandra White Barkley, the protagonist of the title story, finds, upon her husband’s desertion of her for a younger and slimmer woman, that his presence was just the burden she needed lifted to be free and happy and repossess her beauty. Ruthie Kates, the young mother in “Gold Mine,” works through a period of self-reflection, confusion, and indecision while her husband carries on an affair.

“First Union Blues,” one of the collection’s most bold and fast-paced stories, invites the reader into a few days of Maureen Dummer’s eclectic life. She’s an intelligent, young single mother who works as a bank teller when she must, but knows how to get around the system and cover her delinquencies. “Departures” is sad and sensitive in its description of widow Anna Craven’s difficult life. After three years alone, she has developed a unique routine to ease her through the days: She spends her time indulging in strangers’ emotions in airports, malls, or any place where the multitudes are gathered.

Sixteen-year-old Bunny, in “Waiting for Hard Times to End,” has as much courage as all of McCorkle’s other protagonists combined. She orders her life around the mailman’s daily delivery, so that she’s sure to receive the consistent flow of postcards from her runaway sister, Rhonda, who has been disowned by the family. When weeks go by without a word from Rhonda, Bunny—rightfully—fears the worst.