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WE WERE THE UNIVERSE by Kimberly King Parsons Kirkus Star


by Kimberly King Parsons

Pub Date: May 14th, 2024
ISBN: 9780525521853
Publisher: Knopf

A young mother in a suburb between Fort Worth and Dallas wrangles a Texas-size grief.

Parsons’ debut novel—following the story collection Black Light (2019)—follows 25-year-old Kit’s remarkable and original stream of consciousness as it obsessively circles the loss of her younger sister, Julie, who died four years ago while Kit was pregnant. Back when they were growing up in Wink, Texas, where Kit’s beautiful mother still lives, the two had a band with their friend Yesenia called You Are the Universe, a name that grew out of their epic psychedelic adventures on the pink shag rug of a boy known as Big Large. As the novel opens, Kit is about to take an actual trip—a weekend in Montana with her best friend, Pete, ostensibly to help him get over being dumped by his partner, Brian. “I instantly recognized in [Pete] the things I saw in myself—here was somebody with a mighty death drive, somebody bighearted who was also kind of a fuckup, someone who was not exactly overflowing with impulse control.” Until it’s time to go, she’s wheeling her stroller between Hidden Wonder playground, Tiny Toads gymnastic center, and the home she shares with her sweet husband, Jad, and precocious Gilda, a tiny tyrant who “can appropriately use debris in a sentence.” Kit still loves sex and psychedelics, though these days her one-night stands are fantasy only, and she can’t take drugs because she’s still nursing. Nevertheless, both are frequently in her always-interesting thoughts: “I am so, so glad I’ve done acid. Nothing prepares you for childbirth more.” “It’s possible that nothing makes me want sex more than not coming during it.” Along with Melissa Broder’s Death Valley (2023), this book seems suggestive evidence of a New Psychedelia, young women writers updating Carlos Castaneda for the 21st century, filling the eternal trippy desert with love and yearning and laughter.

Parsons has created a character so appealing in her cheerful brokenness that you won’t want to leave her side for a minute.