Trade Paperback/245 pages
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". . . a simple book with a subtly complex message . . ."
Hick: A cynically hopeful view of every town America.
Luli McMullen is thirteen years old, the daughter of the most beautiful woman in town and a broken down drunken cowboy who looks like Elvis. They live in small town Nebraska where they are known for their poverty, fighting, and drinking. Her mother, still clinging to the memory of a baby boy born dead and her beauty, doesn’t have time for Luli as she casts her seductive net for every man who looks like money. Her father, caught between love and hate, is about to walk out again. This time he will not come back.
Certain her mother is about to leave her for some slick, suit-wearing man with money, Luli takes a Smith & Wesson .45, her mother’s stash of cash, and what few clothes she has and hits the road to find something—anything—better. She knows she will make it because she is blossoming into a woman with the power to make men’s eyes swirl . . . just like her mother.
Andrea Portes hands the reins completely over to Luli in Hick, giving the precocious 13-year-old control of a drive-about journey from the stark poverty of small town Nebraska to a secluded rustic cabin where innocence dies in blood.
Luli’s voice is an uneven mix of British colloquial slang, maturity, resignation, sarcasm, and a childhood lived between bars and a yard sale World Book. There is a certain sly charm and innocent worldliness about Luli that is both endearing and appalling in this small woman-child who has seen too much—and too little—of the world.
The characters of Eddie Kreezer, a crippled cowboy drifter, and Glenda, a beautiful unrepentant grifter, are darker versions of Luli’s parents, Tammy and Nick Cutter, paralleling the uncertainty of Luli’s life and illustrating her adaptability in horrific and constantly changing circumstances, as well as a deep vulnerability.
Luli’s voice is a broken mish-mash of maturity and knowledge beyond what she could find in an encyclopedia. The author’s voice leaks into the narrative, at times jarring, and yet it still works. The repetition of phrases and words is reminiscent of Gertrude Stein with a lyrical quality all its own. With a meandering style that is part stream of consciousness and part commentary, Luli’s journey offers up a view of America that is at once starkly revealing in its accuracy and unnerving in its honesty. Hick is a simple book with a subtly complex message that works as social commentary as well as a sort of disturbing coming of age.