cover image All-Night Pharmacy

All-Night Pharmacy

Ruth Madievsky. Catapult, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-64622-150-9

Poet Madievsky (Emergency Brake) makes her fiction debut with an electric tale of two sisters. “Spending time with my sister, Debbie, was like buying acid off a guy you met on the bus,” recounts the unnamed 18-year-old narrator, the result being either “euphoric” or “coming to in a gas station bathroom.” They’ve grown up in an unstable home, their father absent and their mother receiving a “kaleidoscope of diagnoses.” Along the way, the acquiescent narrator learns to defer to the older, imperious Debbie: “I didn’t like who I was when I was with her, but I didn’t like myself any other time either.” After hanging out with Debbie and doing drugs at a dive bar, the narrator develops an addiction to prescription pills. She also becomes codependent with Debbie, a dynamic that comes to a head with the narrator stabbing Debbie. The latter survives, then disappears. Afterward, the narrator finds admin work in an emergency room, where she meets and falls in love with Sasha, a queer Jewish refugee from Moldova who claims to be the narrator’s spiritual guardian (“She had all of Debbie’s larger-than-lifeness, but without the dangerous edge or the bitter comedown,” the narrator reflects of Sasha). Madievsky renders her protagonist’s search for selfhood vividly and viscerally, resulting in a coming-of-age story that radiates like a Lynchian fever dream. Agent: Mina Hamedi, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (July)