Marie is a waitress at an upscale Dallas steakhouse, attuned to the appetites of her patrons and gifted at hiding her private struggle as a young single mother behind an easy smile and a crisp white apron. It’s a world of long hours and late nights, and Marie often gives in to self-destructive impulses, losing herself in a tangle of bodies and urgent highs as her desire for obliteration competes with a stubborn will to survive. A Chicago Tribune, Electric Literature, BookRiot Best Book of the Year, and Whiting Award Winner.
To transgress, to 'go beyond a boundary or limit,' can also echo transcendence, as Tierce demonstrates in her brilliant, devastating debut novel ... Refreshingly, Tierce pays scrupulous attention to the details of restaurant work, and she is no less attuned to the squalor of Marie’s sexual encounters. Granted, there are moments of joy and pleasure, but they are fleeting.The problem with summarizing the plot is that it somewhat obfuscates what this book is really about: that misogyny is alive and well, and all too many men still enjoy degrading women ... Love Me Back is one of those exquisitely rare novels that feel desperate and urgent and absolutely necessary.
Merritt Tierce’s debut novel is a stylishly brutal account of the life of a waitress working in a series of Texas restaurants ... The prose is laconic, vernacular; at first, the book seems like a well-executed but predictable entry in the genre of trauma lit. As it develops, however, it moves in a far more interesting direction ... Sex scenes and restaurant scenes bleed into each other; they have the same dissociated feeling and adrenaline rush ... Throughout, the story is elevated by Tierce’s fierce and elegant writing. The pace is that of a cocaine binge, and the voice moves from big-hearted to heartless to maudlin with the frank dispatch of a waitress dealing with a demanding dinner crowd. It is also quietly funny ... There are points at which the plot wanders ... Sometimes Marie’s voice feels a little glib; cool for cool’s sake. But these brief lapses scarcely matter: the scenes are too powerful, too real. We are unequivocally along for the ride. It is also heartening to read an American novel that takes working-class life seriously. Here, the world of waiting tables is an arena large enough for tragedy and glory, and Tierce is not documenting the lives of its people from the viewpoint of an anthropologist, but singing them as their Homer ... Nor does the heroic tone feel like hyperbole. It is the size of life seen from the inside – because we are never in any doubt that these are Tierce’s people. She is not just telling stories about them, she is bearing witness on their behalf, and she does so with a wholly writerly – that is, ruthless – love.
When I started reading Merritt Tierce’s debut novel about a self-destructive waitress, by page four I thought Tierce had penned the greatest restaurant book on earth. By page six...I had the shivers ... From the get-go, it’s clear that this is an author who understands the perverse power that comes from allowing our female bodies to be used. Which is to say: this is a book that talks about how powerful and fragile and dangerous it is to be a woman living, working, and reproducing in the world we know today ... In a book so visceral and vitriolic that Tierce’s insights come at you like thrown acid, it’s hard to pin down the one thing that should make you read it. But for the mothers out there, Tierce has captured the frantic desire to both protect and expel these creatures that come out screaming, red-faced from us, expecting the whole world ... Not since Isabelle Hupert in The Piano Teacher have we encountered a woman so incapable of bearing the weight of being loved. If we can wish one thing for Marie and her creator, Merritt Tierce, it’s that this book will put the term 'unlikeable character' to rest. I didn’t like this bone-worked, maddening, cavernous mother, I loved her all the way to her rotted core, and rooted for her — still root for — this modern woman doing the worst version of her best.