cover image The Likely World

The Likely World

Melanie Conroy-Goldman. Red Hen, $18.95 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-59709-808-3

Conroy-Goldman’s propulsive debut explores a drug-addicted woman’s struggle for sobriety and a new life. Mellie, 38 and mother of two-year-old Juni, is 29 days sober when a mysterious, menacing man drives a black SUV into her driveway in Roslindale, Mass. The author then recounts Mellie’s 25-year addiction to a drug called cloud, which erases short-term memory, as themes of motherhood, love, and addiction collide in heartbreaking and dangerous ways. As a teenager, Mellie is a smart wallflower who lives with her new-age single mother and attends a posh private school where she hangs around her crush, Paul, and Judah. After being rejected by Paul at a party, Judah gives Mellie her first dose of cloud. Fast-forward a few years and Mellie is a full-blown addict living with Paul and performing in the porn industry. Now, Mellie consults her written accounts of what’s happened to her, piecing together the connection between the arrival of the SUV and the life in porn she’s only recently gotten away from, while juggling her obligations to Juni amid her urge to start using again. The story feels overlong, but the prose is exquisite (“The familiar and the strange have swapped; things have gone missing entirely”). This skillful twist on the addiction narrative is worth a look. (Aug.)