This week’s book, Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce, offers an honest peek behind the scenes of the service industry, primarily restaurants. It’s depressing and a bit on the lurid side, so if you are looking for a feelgood read with a happy ending, I suggest that you skip this one. As a fitting musical accompaniment, I have been listening to a band out of Philadelphia during the 90s called Tubalcain. At the end of the review, hit the link to hear the album 25 Assorted Needles on Google Play. It ROCKS.
Love Me Back
by Merritt Tierce
Doubleday (2014), Hardcover, 224 pages
Love Me Back is a brutally honest view of the life of a young, single mother working in the service industry. The story slowly reveals past mistakes and transgressions, (teenage pregnancy, adultery and drug abuse), while frequently finding our main character, Marie, in harrowing situations that anyone who has every worked in the service industry will surely recognize. Long hours of serving drunk and/or abusive patrons, alcohol and drug abuse, and in Marie’s case, a lot of drunken sex. The depiction of loss, loneliness and despair is not pretty- added to the emotionless sexual encounters,and you get one visceral narrative. It is fiction, although you cannot read this without recognizing at least one person that you know in your own life.
There is another dimension to Love Me Back that breaks up the bleakness, if only for a moment. Marie has a young daughter who happens to live with her ex-husband. The story delves into the reasons for the split at certain points in the story, but the story itself is really about Marie’s relationship (or lack of one) with her daughter. In her first person narratives, Marie often discusses her lack of maternal feeling, or her failures as a mother.
It is when the dialog switches to Marie’s journal entries that there is a lull in the storm, and a sense of purpose. During these moments, she is writing to her daughter, offering advice, confessions and at times, poignant moments of complete honesty. These interludes contain some of the most accomplished writing of the book, bordering on poetic at times.
This was a strong and sobering piece of writing, with well-developed characters, and a gritty, at times quite funny portrayal of the service industry. As a debut novel, it is a bold statement, and I truly look forward to Merritt Tierce’s next offering.Highly recommended, and one of my top ten favorites of the last year.
Thugbrarian Set-List: Tubalcain-25 Assorted Needles
This Philadelphia band was formed by the remnants of the Executive Slacks. 25 Assorted Needles has so many great songs, from heavy industrial guitar anthems to lush Goth tinged Electro. Vocalist Athan, who was the last singer for the Executive Slacks, and sang with the Industrial Band Spahn Ranch, now has a new Electro outfit called the Noir Band. You can listen to Tubalcain’s 25 Assorted Needles on Google Play.