I read (and raved about) Katie Crouch's first novel Girls in Trucks a couple of months ago, and I could not have loved it more. It was dark, modern, female-oriented southern fiction -- my favorite kind. So it was a no-brainer that I would immediately be picking up Crouch's other works. Men and Dogs is her second novel.
Crouch has said that she tries to set her books anywhere but the south, but somehow she always returns to her southern roots: Charleston, specifically. In Girls in Trucks, she wrote about debutante-gone-wrong Sarah Walters who escapes to New York City, only to return to Charleston; in Men and Dogs she brings to life the tragic Hannah Legare, who ran to San Francisco but finds herself back in South Carolina.
A quick summary, from Amazon:
"The novel kicks off with a flashback: 20-odd years ago, Buzz Legare vanished while on a fishing trip. The fallout of his disappearance and presumed death appears in his 30-something children: Hannah drinks too much, her business is failing, and her husband has kicked her out after her repeated adultery. Hannah's gay brother, Palmer, refuses to let anyone get too close—he's ready to end his yearlong relationship when his partner brings up the idea of adopting a baby.
After Hannah injures herself trying to break into her husband's apartment, she heads home to Charleston, S.C., to get her life back on track, but instead finds herself pursuing the past. Damaged and vulnerable, she zigzags through her past—an old boyfriend, questions about her parents' fidelity, and finally facing down where her unwillingness to accept love has gotten her. [Crouch's] dialogue is snappy, the situations darkly funny, Hannah and Palmer are unlikable but sympathetic, and there's just enough mystery to keep the pages turning."I actually found Hannah and Palmer quite likable as characters; full of faults, they inspire both anger and sympathy. I always feel the best characters are intricately flawed, and Crouch obviously feels the same way. The siblings could be your best friends from high school, or the neighbor down the street. They are that real.
Crouch's writing seemed to be a bit more finely tuned this go-round. Although I loved the writing style of Girls in Trucks, which written in short stories that tie together nicely, Men and Dogs is a more cohesive novel. Crouch keeps her witty chapter titles, though, and the constantly-shifting points-of-view that seem to be her trademark.
Although she is relatively new to the literary scene (her third novel, the YA The Magnolia League was released earlier this month), Katie Crouch is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. The real down-side to this is that she has no back-log of books to read; I have to wait for the publication of each one! I can't wait to pick up The Magnolia League, as I've been reading a lot more YA this school year. It is set in Savannah, rather than Charleston, which means it is most definitely steeped in southern-ness. I'm sure you'll see it reviewed here soon, so be on the lookout.