LOVE ME BACK by Merritt Tierce


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An emotionally barren waitress hustles her way through life, dulled by sex, drugs and self-inflicted burns.

This brutal, darkly poetic debut novel earned Tierce, a recent Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate, a Rona Jaffe award and inclusion in the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35.” It’s a flawed thing of beauty, as terribly uncomfortable to read as it is often brilliant. The tale jumps around in time and tone, feeling much like a series of short stories that have been stitched together to form a whole. When we first meet Marie in “Put Your Back Into It,” she describes four doctors she met at a catering event, three of whom she sleeps with. From there, we get her story in fits and starts: She gets married far too young to the teenage boy who fathers the little girl she's not ready to take care of. The guy splits when she gives him an STD she caught sleeping around. To survive, she becomes a professional waitress, sleekly navigating the nuances of the restaurant floor while simultaneously taking bumps of coke and suffering the cock-and-bull machismo of the kitchen. As we follow her from Chili’s and The Olive Garden through classier cafes and finally to “The Restaurant,” a high-end Dallas steakhouse, we get stories of corrupt managers, kitchen hustlers, back-stabbing waiters and dim bussers, all sharply portrayed. If there's a significant hurdle to believability, it’s Marie’s reckless, self-destructive sex life. We already know she’s a cutter, but the number of people she submits to is shocking, often letting men double-team her in walk-ins, pickup trucks and back rooms. “It pays to hustle, it pays to bend over,” she advises. “You keep your standards high and your work strong but these are necessary for success; you keep your dignity separate, somewhere else, attached to different things.”

The cold and honest confessions of a damaged young woman who lives to serve.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-385-53807-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2014


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