It’s been a few months since I’ve been able to read anything that wasn’t inscribed on the stone-etched commandments we call syllabi. However, one of the perks of being a Creative Writing major is that occasionally, one of these required reads will end up meaning more to me than a defensible essay thesis and a couple of quiz grades. Halfway through the semester, my mind was dragging itself through the pages of several literature books and a list of English to Spanish translations. I didn’t hate what I was reading. I just needed something different. An accidental jalapeño seed in my rice and bean burrito, something to stun my senses, wake me up, and leave my eyes a little watery. Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce did just that.
This filter-free novel rips readers through the narrative of a young woman, Marie, experiencing motherhood while stuck in the seductive, self-destructive cycle of the restaurant industry and the quest to fill a boundless void with sex, drugs and hefty tips. If you’ve spent any time behind the name tag and apron of a local restaurant or bar, this book will stun you with uncanny scenes of the server life.
“You can’t be in the weeds if you don’t care,” he said.
Love Me Back uses the accurate example of the unpredictable, sexually charged men in the workplace, dead end employees, and atrocious customers to represent the relationships that drift in and out of the life of a young adult. We are fed small bites, with unpolished silverware, of unspeakable moments in Marie’s life. From aggressively fogged windows of a pulled over car, to the high of every drug you can think of, the uncomfortable intimacy of this read will leave you locking your jaw in hurt and outrage for it spares no moment of flawed action, or offensive language. Self-pity is not inscribed on the pages, although guilt, heartache and honesty compensate its absence tenfold.
You don’t have to be a mother, or a sex addict, or a server, or a twenty-something to feel the tightening grip that pain can have around a life. Love Me Back is a confessional explanation for those who have ever felt like they needed to justify how they got where they are. This read is not for the faint at heart. It will not leave you with a weightless spirit or a radiant perspective, but it will wake you from your monotonous mindless motion, and it will make you feel.
“In that restaurant all of us were off. Chipped. Everybody on the way to the curve. Maybe it’s all the same in a law firm, a nail salon, whatever high or low. Maybe that’s just what it is to be alive, you’ve got that broken sooty piece of something lodged inside you making you veer left.”