LOVE IS THE DRUG

Sarahbeth Purcell, Author
Sarahbeth Purcell, Author . Atria $23 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7434-7615-7
Reviewed on: 01/12/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
Paperback - 244 pages - 978-0-7434-7616-4
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A masochistic, narcissistic 24-year-old struggles with addiction, the end of a dysfunctional love affair and the failing health of her father in Purcell's rocky debut. Chick-lit conventions—a chattering first-person narrator with a troubled love life and a fondness for lists—can't quite support a story that begins with a suicide attempt ("I am lying on the side of an abandoned road in the gravel next to the car, with my arm slashed from a broken Pabst beer bottle, and I'm waiting to die"). After that grim prologue, Purcell traces the events leading up to it. Nashville native Tyler Tracer had a beautiful long-distance relationship with David, a middle-aged L.A. musician, but now that they're living together, David treats her horribly. She loves him, and she loves the sex—but the pain is killing her. So she splits, arriving back in Tennessee in time to see her beloved father die; distraught, she then embarks on a road trip toward self-actualization. Tyler's voice is raw and desperate—and therefore sometimes grating—but she's an able narrator, so it's disappointing that Purcell makes Tyler such a "slave to lists," which, in their bullet-pointed brevity, substitute for more graceful characterization ("Top Ten Shitty Occupations I Have Held for More Than Thirty Seconds"; "Top Ten Reasons Why I Let Men Treat Me Like Shit"). Tyler's a passionate girl ("I will write stories until the day I die and live in between the sentences and paragraphs"), but her story feels forced, especially the happily-ever-after part, which comes—believe it or not—thanks to a kind rock star and a sacrificial armadillo. (Feb. 3)

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