A debut novel in which a lonely nineteen-year-old working at a North Carolina pool hall accepts an invitation from her charismatic coworker to take revenge on a creepy customer, leading to an amazing friendship but also an introduction to pills and hustling to maintain the high.
Tucker skillfully flips between past and present, swapping the language of sobriety for the slang of active addiction to give readers a full picture of the pair’s mental state. A natural fit for fans of Julie Buntin’s Marlena (2017), Tucker’s novel champions the strength it takes to stay clean when every other decision is so much simpler.
There’s a shrewdness here, of the immensely gratifying sort ... Bewilderness doesn’t work itself up into a tragedy (though it incorporates it) and resentment for the Sackler family. In fact, the allure of the story for the reader aligns with Irene’s apparent lack of regret and general good spirits ... Tucker conjures Irene through tone, pitch and diction more than through ongoing self-revelation ... Tucker isn’t interested in providing a model for those desiring to go clean, but rather the troubled clarity of someone who has done so. This spirited telling emerges by way of Tucker’s fine ear for expression stained by adversity and leavened by a comic vibe in a minor key ... Tucker creates environment with deft strokes for the sole aim of creating an apt space for action—which comprises a series of tensely drawn interactions with suppliers, connections, bosses, and shady rehab pitch-people.
Tucker astonishes in her devastating debut, a harrowing account of addiction, friendship, and loss ... Tucker does a wonderful job locating Irene’s and Luce’s desire to live a better life beneath their tough exteriors...This keen awareness consistently adds depth and devastation. No matter the characters’ genuine longing to change, they are bound to their cyclical, unrelenting patterns. This is a stunning accomplishment.