Book Review - Girls in Trucks

Katie Crouch’s heroine keeps on truckin’

Sarah Walters is on a quest for love and fulfillment. So the Charleston debutante moves to New York City and struggles through a series of bad relationships in Katie Crouch’s debut novel, Girls in Trucks.

Crouch’s own story isn’t that far removed from her protagonist’s. Crouch is also a Charleston native who’s lived in New York, and admits to making a lot of dating mistakes.

“The book is autobiographical emotionally,” Crouch says over the phone from her San Francisco home. “I sort of took my life and then heightened it, because if I wrote a book about my life it would be pretty dull.”

While Crouch attended cotillion back in South Carolina, she never became an official debutante like Sarah, who wrestles with the label her entire life. There are personality differences as well, “She’s more adventurous than I am, dating-wise. I’ve never followed a guy to Peru or taken a third party in my bedroom,” Crouch says, laughing.

In 2001, a heartsick Crouch was living in New York City, trying to reconnect with her ex-boyfriend. When she saw that he had moved on, she started writing.

She says, at first “The story was really boring, which is what happens when I write about my own life. So I wondered, ‘What if she stalks him? And let’s add a little bit of racial tension.’” Once finished, Crouch was intrigued by the character she had created. “I wondered how she got so lonely, and so crazy. The rest accordioned out from there.”

The book’s chapters are structured like short stories (think Melissa Bank’s The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing), and most of them are dedicated to her failed relationships. In “You Are Not Me” (the first chapter she wrote), Sarah becomes a heart-broken stalker. She falls hard for a demanding and violent man in “There’s Always Something.” And she tries to revisit a fling with a former European backpacker in “Snow in Bangladesh.”

She knew right away that Girls in Trucks would be the title. “To me, they’re such an emblem of the South, even though it’s a little bit cliché,” she says. “But they’re so masculine and Southern and everything I grapple with. I think a lot about the fact that I’m from the South. And I think a lot about men. And I think a lot about being a girl. So to me that title encompassed what the book was about.”

The combination of Crouch’s personal experiences with universal themes such heartache and grief, makes Sarah’s story, and her pain, feel real. Although the book’s constant cycle of love and loss and the seemingly unending search for fulfillment can get tiring, it’s encouraging to have a heroine brave enough to keep at it.

“I think it’s good to take chances,” she says. “My heart always heals back. It’s better to get out there than stay inside in your shell and be protective, because then you aren’t going to learn anything.”

Katie Crouch reads and signs Girls in Trucks. Free. Tues., April 29, 7:30 p.m. Wordsmiths Books, 545 N. McDonough St., Decatur. 404-378-7166. www.wordsmithsbooks.com. Wear a high-society ball gown and you could win a prize.