books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce

Marie is a woman who had a baby very young and tried to make the traditional life work for her.  Now single and working as a waitress in an upscale Dallas steakhouse, she excels at her job while hiding her pain adeptly.  She indulges in extremely self-destructive behaviors once the restaurant is closed, choosing to find oblivion in sex and drugs.  Marie isn’t looking to be saved.  She’s just looking to survive.

Hailed as one of the most promising new writers under the age of 35, Merritt Tierce’s dark, disturbing novel offers readers a character study of a woman beyond redemption.  This brutal piece of fiction is beautifully written, fiercely unapologetic in its portrayal of its characters, and wholly memorable.   Tierce is an author to watch.

Make no mistake: this is not an easy book to read.  Tierce doesn’t shy away from Marie’s most self-destructive tendencies, and her descriptions of the men she has sex with and the drugs she does are unrelenting.  The story swivels from being so uncomfortable it’s almost unbearable to being so brilliant it’s impossible to stop reading.  Each chapter jumps around in time, which makes for an intentionally jarring read (and in its weaker moments, makes it feel more like a collection of short stories than a piece of complete fiction).  But it remains riveting throughout.

What’s so interesting about this book is how well it portrays both the incredible demands of the service industry as well as the struggles of a single woman desperate to survive.  Tierce’s descriptions of the minutiae of restaurant work are fascinating and horrifying, as are Marie’s day-to-day interactions with the people she uses to find obliteration.  It’s exceedingly well-done.

Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart.

Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce. Doubleday: 2014. Purchased copy.

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