Despite her best efforts, Katie Crouch has written another book centered in her hometown of Charleston.
"I swore I would never write another book about Charleston after Girls in Trucks," Crouch says. "However I have very little control with the story once I get going. Before I knew it, [the protagonist] got on a plane and went home [to Charleston]."
The author, now based in San Francisco, made her debut as a professional writer in 2008 with Girls in Trucks, also based in the Holy City. Crouch intended to expand her horizons — geographically speaking — with her sophomore release, but found her characters back in the area she knows so well.
The novel follows Hannah Legare as she hits rock bottom at the age of 35. The book opens with Hannah drunk on a couch in a rental apartment. She unwisely takes a cab to the condo she shared with her husband in San Francisco before getting kicked out for cheating (again). She proceeds to scale the side of the building before falling three stories onto the ground — and an unfortunately placed nail.
Hannah's husband sends her back to the Lowcountry for a period of recuperation, where she stays with her mother, Daisy, and stepfather Will Dewitt, in their mansion South of Broad. The stint forces Hannah to confront the facts surrounding her father's disappearance more than 20 years earlier and her inability to cope with the loss. Adamantly believing Buzz Legare abandoned the family for unknown reasons, Hannah cannot accept the possibility that her father died while fishing in the Charleston Harbor with the family dog.
Through vivid flashbacks, the reader is brought into Hannah's thought process.
"I wanted the scenes to work the way memory works, in sort of dream-like snippets," says Crouch. "A lot of time your memory is not totally correct, so I wanted them to be ethereal because Hannah's memory isn't totally reliable, and I wanted that to be clear."
The story evolves around Hannah's realization and eventual acceptance of her selective memory. Once believing she was incapable of committing herself to anyone, Hannah discovers she has been vehemently faithful to her father's memory.
"The book is really to me about blind faith, how faith and loyalty get you through hard times, even if your faith is kind of an apparition," she says.
Highlights of the novel include Crouch's use of stream-of-consciousness narratives that edge on run-on sentences, depicting Hannah's flighty, impulsive personality. Crouch throws in several lists to show Hannah's sporadic and simultaneously occurring thoughts. At one point, a jumble includes "Obama! I need to shave my knees; three stories, not so high."
Although Crouch has promised this will be the last novel featuring a Charleston backdrop, we can only hope the city's pull will be strong enough to keep her coming back for more.
Blue Bicycle Books will host Crouch for a book party and signing on May 21, from 5-7 p.m.