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Saving Angelfish (Tin House New Voice)by Michele Matheson
Synopses & Reviews
A part-time actress and full-time junkie, Maxella Gordon's life is unraveling fast. She's estranged from her parents, in debt to the neighborhood dealer, and in frequent conversation with an angel figurine she ripped off from the local Rite-Aid. After an unfortunate incident, Max is forced to sell for another dealer, the vicious, legless Carlotta. Struggling to get out of debt, off drugs, and away from Carlotta, Max is increasingly desperate to find a way out.
Drugs and violence haunt everyone in Max's world, yet still they draw together: her parents, still holding each other up though their marriage ended years ago; her tutu-clad buyer, who joins them for Christmas dinner; and Max's own attempt to help Carlotta's son Albert break away from his mother. Honest and unpredictable, laced with flashes of wit and poignancy, Saving Angelfish is a gritty portrait of the dark world simmering just below LA's gleaming surface.
"Matheson's promising debut, a gritty novel from Tin House Books' New Voice Series, tells the bleak story of a wayward L.A. junkie named Max. Virtually disowned by her dysfunctional parents, out of a job, sickeningly underweight, months behind on rent and unable to kick her debilitating heroin habit, Max flits from day to depressing day in a constant state of decrepitude. When she's not shooting up, she's snorting coke, and when she's not doing that she's thinking about her next fix. Despite her spiraling decline and a number of near-death experiences, nothing really changes for Max throughout her story. Her dealers (Grandpops, her crusty, repulsive landlord; and Carlotta, a beastly legless woman) and fellow junkies (Wolf and a roller-skating waif named Tutu) share Max's single-minded pursuit of getting high. Though initially mesmerizing, the drug-centric plot begins to ware a little thin; the crux of the book can be found in Max's unchanging attitude toward her life: 'The goal is not to think-about anything. She winds up places, and that's fine.' Nonetheless, Matheson's sharp, highly detailed prose thrusts readers in the driver's seat of an out-of-control life." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Saving Angelfish resonates with the kind of raw power and fearless, unsparing prose that will remind readers of earlier classics of the genre like Requiem for a Dream and Basketball Diaries. Michele Matheson, God help her, has done the research - and lived to tell the tale. This is a darkly beautiful novel, as seductive and brutal as a smack habit - and just as hard to shake." Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight, and I, Fatty
"The brutality and purgatorial repetition that is the outer life of a heroin addict conceals a shimmering inner world in Michele Matheson's debut novel, Saving Angelfish. Luminous language traces a phosphorescent trail through the book's dark journey." Janet Fitch, author of Paint It Black
"In that land where literary characters live, Maxella, the heroine of Saving Angelfish, shares the same space as Alice, of Alice in Wonderland, and Holden Caufield. But though Max's neighborhood, like Alice's and Caufield's, is also funny and wondrous, her actual street is a far more dangerous and scary place to hang out. In questioning just how much anyone can break free from the past, Matheson's voice is dead-on, fresh, and completely winning. Michele Matheson is a find." Jim Krusoe, author of Iceland
"Gritty, poignant, funny, achingly dark, Saving Angelfish marks the debut of an impressive new literary talent. Michele Matheson has a keen eye, a ravaged ancient soul and a lyrical voice — a powerful combination that has produced a remarkable book." John Lescroart, author of The Hunt Club
"The end of one’s rope is where my favorite literature begins and Saving Angelfish is a strong contributor to that brave, luminous pile. Authentic desperation reeks from every page of this novel, which makes for an arresting reading experience. Humor and tension is all the right places." Benjamin Weissman, author of Headless
When we meet Max, she's lying on the beach, drug sick and hoping to stay clean for the day. As she flails in her attempts to find her way out of debt and off of drugs, her exhaustion deepens to desperate proportions. Violence and drug use haunt this gritty account of the dark world that blisters just below the gleaming surface of Los Angeles. Matheson captures both sides, and she does so with a wink, choosing offbeat and surreal elements such as a talking drugstore angel shoplifted from Rite- Aid.
About the Author
Michele Matheson lives in Los Angeles.
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