LOVE ME BACK by Merritt Tierce (Random House, 2014)

5 Dec

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 9.59.14 PM GENRE: Realistic Fiction

HONORS: None Known

REVIEW: Cutting a wide swath between young adulthood and when life gets real as an adult, Love Me Back tells the fragmented, unforgiving story of Marie, a young women full of potential who falls prey to bad decisions and circumstances. Trading in her chance to go to Yale for a baby and a series of dead end jobs waiting tables, Marie sabotages her happiness at every turn, degrading herself, demeaning her life, and traveling down a self-destructive path, the beginning of which is never made clear. She turns away from love to a series of horrible men who use her, sometimes to brutal ends, and the cold, threatening life behind the kitchen doors of the restaurant service industry. It’s not a tidy story with a happy ending—in fact, there’s no true ending at all. It’s simply a glimpse at a life most of us would be happy not to live.

OPINION: This difficult story is made even more brutal by unnerving writing which practically dares one not be disturbed. Marie is clearly missing some part of herself which she makes up for with drugs and dangerous sex—even doing things to jeopardize her relationship with her young daughter, who she loves, but in her own, damaged way. The jumpy nature of the narrative captures the moodiness and unpredictable nature of Marie’s life—one bad service can get you fired; one bad drug or bad man can get you killed. Her life is always on the edge, even as she provides patrons with a dining experience perfect and precise. It’s hard to see the overall merit in this book (and it is definitely not appropriate for younger readers) other than admire Tierce’s dedication to ugly truth. Love Me Back is hard to read for its rawness, blatantly looking the reader in the eye with a challenge to blink. But blinking might be the only way to get through all 224 pages without losing a little bit of your soul.

IDEAS: Due to the subject matter and the language, this book is only appropriate for older readers (17+) and could be considered in context of other more mature reads. A comparison with Go Ask Alice would be an interesting generational study.

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