A young addict chronicles his struggles with cocaine, alcohol, and especially sex in this debut novel in stories.
In the letter that opens this book, M., the narrator, pleads with a past lover, L., to “find this collection of short stories from my life as my sincere attempt to explain who you really lived with for more than ten years.” It’s a project that may be as important to M. as it is to his addressee, to whom he admits, “I don’t know why I almost shot you that night.” The stories are all linked by M.’s recollections of his idealization of and callousness toward women. As the book moves deeper into his past, details of M.’s faith and city provide additional context. Author Freiner refreshingly mixes up the usual beats of addiction narratives, beginning with M.’s successful attempt to get sober in the first full story, “Evil Eyes,” which chronicles his redemptive affair with the daughter of a woman whose sadism catches him off guard. The tales also have moments of droll humor; for example, as M. prepares for his first confession while in the throes of sexual awakening in “The Saint Sisters,” he reads a catalog of sins and notes that “the Catholic Church was a very detail-oriented organization.” M. is portrayed as a lively but repetitive narrator; he explains his categorization of women as “possible mothers of my future kids” or “sluts” at least twice in the collection, for instance. He also has a maddeningly muted sense of agency throughout, reporting that he feels “disconnected from my body” during a tryst and that a “mysterious power” leads him to pick one woman over another. He doesn’t seem to understand why he does things or even comprehend how disturbing his actions are, whether he’s threatening to kill African-Americans in chat rooms or concocting a scheme to seduce a 14-year-old girl—which raises questions about what readers are supposed to take away from this collection.
Freiner pushes his protagonist toward insights that he never quite realizes in this relentless survey of eroticism and drug abuse.