Sunday, April 12, 2015

Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce

Teen mom waitress degrades herself in order not to feel the pain

Marie, once headed to Yale, gets pregnant at sixteen, and, needing cash, enters the tough world of waiting tables, first at chains like Olive Garden and Chili’s, then at fancier establishments, until finally she lands a gig at the “Restaurant,” the competitive pinnacle for servers wanting to make lots of money.  To stay employed at the “Restaurant,” a waiter must be hardworking, a team player and have excellent people skills.  The payoff is a “good night.” Marie gets skilled at being a high-end waitress, better anyway than she is at being a wife, and probably at being a mother.  In addition to sucking up to customers and bosses (as well as despising them), Marie parties heavily, never declining a proposed sex act.  Days off are spent with her adored daughter and the secret cutting and burning of Marie’s flesh.  The two sensations, of adoration and degradation, are connected.

I grabbed this book before stepping onto the plane, not knowing a thing about it.  I settled in, started reading, then realized, Jackpot. The writing was amazing, the strength was the voice, fully alive, and the surety of the artist.  The sentences were gripping, and the reader is totally compelled to follow Marie’s tale of reestablishing her life after it gets blown up by an accidental pregnancy. 

Part if the narrative structure is Marie’s progression to better paying serving jobs and the ego crushing things she needs to do in order to keep the job.  There were lots of insights into how America really works, and how workers are actually treated and how workers are actually treated is not that pretty.  This book also reminded me of Kasischke's Suspicious River, that is, the plot is almost a pretext for gorgeously written scenes of female degradation.  And also like Kasischke, structure-wise, a little of this goes a long way.  The mystery is the motivation, why Marie keeps hooking up with these crummy losers.  Not for orgasms, not for money (not like this girl.)  I didn’t feel the oblivion nor the compulsion for oblivion supposedly Marie is seeking.

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