A bleak novel of poverty and drugs in rural North Carolina, reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor but without a redemptive vision.
At the center of the action is 13-year-old Nikki, whose mother dies at the beginning of the novel. This leads Nikki back to her father, Coy Hawkins, recently released from prison and, not coincidentally, formerly the biggest coke dealer in the county. Coy has taken up with Angel, a bleached-blonde teenager who dresses in high heels and see-through outfits; he pimps her out in cheap hotel rooms to earn money for his next big score. High on his list of resentments is another pimp, who, the month before, had tried to wrest Angel away, but Coy is able to track down his rival and slice and dice his face. If we need further evidence of Coy’s vileness, we get it when Nikki introduces him to Renee, another adolescent whose virginity should bring a high price. But Coy rapes her, shoots her and, with Nikki’s help, cuts up her body and leaves her where animals will find her. The Next Big Thing for Coy is black heroin, which he’s convinced will make him rich. Nikki is far more afraid of being discovered by the Department of Social Services than of being mistreated by her father, so she develops her own drug business and shows herself more than equal to her egregious and slimy father. It is indeed rare to find such entrepreneurial spirit in a slightly post-pubescent teen.
Morris writes brilliantly in short, spasmodic chapters, but her vision borders on despair.