cover image Lucky You

Lucky You

Erika Carter. Counterpoint, $26 (375p) ISBN 978-1-61902-899-9

Carter’s ambitious debut novel delves into the ennui that comes with being young and unsure. Three 20-something women—Ellie, Chloe, and Rachel, friends living in the same Arkansas town where they went to college—circle in and out of each other’s lives as they each grasp for identity and purpose. Ellie seeks romantic validation from a distant musician and her married boss while slipping slowly into drink. Chloe suffers from a variety of mysterious health problems she is not eager to cure or even to understand. Rachel lives with her sanctimonious boyfriend, whose wealthy parents pay for a house in the Ozarks where they all contribute to “The Project,” an off-the-grid lifestyle based on vaguely new-age ideas of health and spirituality. For all their devotion to their assorted identities, be it girlfriend, mistress, or participant in “The Project,” the women struggle to find a direction that sticks. This fruitless search is relatable to anyone who has ever been young and confused, and Carter’s no-nonsense prose is darkly witty, lacking the self-indulgence or mean-spiritedness often seen in stories about modern youth. While the characters are each charming and believable, there is little narrative tension outside of their destructive spirals. Still, Carter’s compassion for her lost young women is clear, and the story never falters from the starkly realistic trajectories marked out for the protagonists. The result is a clever and honest look at the consequences of youthful malaise. (Mar.)