CRAZY HORSE’S GIRLFRIEND, a first novel by Erika Wurth, reviewed by Annie Dawid

Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend

Erika T. Wurth

Curbside Splendor, paper, 285 pp, $15.95

 Survival = Anger x Imagination

“Unless you’re into meth or having sex with people you’re related to, you’ll find shit’s pretty boring here,” says Margaritte, protagonist of Erika Wurth’s debut novel, introducing a new boy to Idaho Springs, Colorado. Funny, tough, realistic and heartbreakingly foolish, Margaritte is a 16-year-old drug dealer with an Indian mother and white father, en route to teenaged motherhood and welfare; her dad is drunk and abusive dad while her mother ceaselessly forgives and enables him. In short, Margaritte skids close to the edge of unredeemable stereotype, then screeches decisively to a halt, exploding into brilliant humanity.

Margariite is Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee, and her best friend is her adopted cousin, Jake: “He’s Nez Perce, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, and black. And big as fuck.” Margaritte talks tough, acts superior to the other impoverished residents of her town, but wisdom fails to direct her behavior. “I knew where that kind of thinking led. To a doublewide trailer and miles and miles of cheap macaroni and cheese, ten for a dollar.”

For nearly 300 pages, Margaritte speeds toward impending doom, stopping along the way for multiple pit stops at the emergency room, a detour to an abortion clinic, and flight with her mother and younger twin sisters to a hotel, their drunk, gun-toting father at her back, among other alcohol- and drug-fueled forays.

Yet, Margaritte’s kindness and compassion can’t help but prevail. Even after her alcoholic father literally drives the family into a ditch during a thunderstorm, she thinks, “Sometimes my sadness for him overwhelmed my resentment, and that was even worse.” She and the new boy fall in love. His family, wealthy and white, buy him expensive outdoor gear, but he’s never slept outside. Margaritte takes him camping on Mt. Evans. Beside the fire, bliss. “I felt so content, so beautiful parts of me felt like they were dying off, exploding.”

While Margaritte careens into and out of disaster, her talons grip the reader’s heart from the first sentence, never letting go. Exhilarated and terrified, readers of Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend will be grateful for the ride.

note: a version of this review was published in High Country News, May 2, 2015

 

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About Annie Dawid

Annie Dawid teaches creative writing at the University College, University of Denver. She was professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR, 1990-2006. Annie won the 2016 International Rubery Award in fiction for her first book and the Music Prize from Knuthouse Press in Fiction. Other awards include the Dana Award in the Essay, the Orlando Flash Fiction Award, The New Rocky Mountain Voices Award (drama) and the Northern Colorado Award in Creative Non-Fiction. Most recent publications: Tikkun, Litro, Fictive Dream. Multiple websites feature her short works, including TubeFlash, Spelk, Octavius, Nowhere, WeSaidGoTravel, Structo, Fiction Attic Press and others. Her three published volumes of fiction are: York Ferry: A Novel, Cane Hill Press, 1993, second printing Lily in the Desert: Stories, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2001 And Darkness Was Under His Feet: Stories of a Family, Litchfield Review Press, 2009
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