I was sent a preview copy* of Merritt Tierce’s debut, Love Me Back, a little while ago, and I popped it on to my to read pile where, I’m sorry to say, it languished until last week. Had I somehow magically read it already, I’d have bumped it straight to the top because my god, this book is phenomenal. Without any psychic powers, however, I’m just going to have to urge you not to suffer the same fate, because Love Me Back is out this week, which means you can buy it and read it immediately. And with endorsements from Roxane Gay and Carrie Brownstein, you absolutely should.
Ok, gushing over, shall we have an actual review?
Love Me Back is about Marie, a woman in her early twenties who works two jobs to support herself and to pay child support for her daughter, who lives with her father. She’s divorced, having got married after finding she was pregnant at seventeen. Her life is a blur of drugs, alcohol, sex, and self-harm, interspersed with her daughter’s visits every other weekend. Marie allows herself to be hurt by others, and in their absence, hurts herself, but this is absolutely not a story of redemption, or descent into addiction and recovery, or how Marie struggles and overcomes any obstacles she faces. Nope. This is a book about waitressing, mainly. Marie is a very real character, as are the people she works with. Love Me Back is about real lives, and about how messed-up those lives are. Marie’s life has not gone in the direction she had once hoped for, and the vignettes which make up the book reflect various events – covering her relationships and time she spends with her daughter, but in the main, they revolve around her shifts at the restaurant – which make up her life.
The writing is amazing, and Tierce creates a world for Marie which you totally believe in. Every single character appears on the page fully fleshed out. Not all of them are likeable, some of them are outright awful, but there are very few instances where any of them – Marie included – elicit pity. These are just people, muddling through life, making the best of whatever situations they have found themselves in. It’s brutal and relentless in refusing to give Marie a break unless she’s going to create one for herself, and is all the better for it.
My entire timeline on Twitter this week has been raving about this book, and I can completely see why. It’s utterly, utterly brilliant. Go and buy it.