cover image Bewilderness


Karen Tucker. Catapult, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-64622-024-3

Tucker astonishes in her devastating debut, a harrowing account of addiction, friendship, and loss. Irene, an isolated 19-year-old in rural North Carolina, meets Luce, a fellow server at a grimy pool hall. They form an intimate friendship that becomes nearly addictive: within hours of their meeting, Irene believes Luce “understood me better than anyone, maybe even my own mother.” Both also battle an opiate addiction. They look at the moon and see an OxyContin pill, “a giant 30 just waiting for someone to reach up and snatch it.” Throughout, they find themselves in scenarios that are equal parts devastating and funny, as they scam and grift to fund their pill habit by committing return fraud at Walmart and selling placebos from their birth control packs to college kids. But their bond begins to break after Luce meets Wilky, a sergeant at the nearby military base who is set on getting clean from a pill addiction of his own and moving with Luce to Florida for a fresh start. Tucker does a wonderful job locating Irene’s and Luce’s desire to live a better life beneath their tough exteriors, as when, while buying pills from an old woman, Irene offhandedly remarks, “Bodies are such fragile things.” This keen awareness consistently adds depth and devastation. No matter the characters’ genuine longing to change, they are bound to their cyclical, unrelenting patterns. This is a stunning accomplishment. Agent: Molly Atlas, ICM Partners. (May)