Books by People I Know: “Junkette”

31UKFHgIfxL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgI was an enthusiastic Sarah Shotland fan the moment I met her. But then again, pretty much everybody is.

Sarah made a splash in Pittsburgh when she dreamed up Words Without Walls, a writing program for people in prison. You can read my interview with Sarah about this groundbreaking program over at Pittsburgh Magazine.

But Sarah is so much more than Words Without Walls. She’s plainspoken and hilarious. She speaks with the subtlest Southern twang. We spent many nights yukking it up on her porch in Friendship.

We met in Chatham’s MFA program, but we really bonded over theater. Sarah is an accomplished playwright and has worked for theater companies around the world. She has spent time in Spain and China, Texas and New Orleans. Chatham’s MFA program attracts many students in their mid-twenties, so Sarah and I felt a little older, a little more road-tested. We are similarly laid-back, and similarly diehard about our labors of love. No matter how much time passes, we pick up our conversation where we left off.

As I write this, I am about halfway through Junkette. Sarah and I exchanged books (Junket for The Green Season) last time I was in town, just the kind of literary barter I enjoy. Like most of the paperbacks in my life, the novel has languished on my bookshelf for months, screaming to be read. I started the book this morning and have found any excuse to keep reading.

The reason is this: It may be a book about heroin addicts in New Orleans, but it’s a breezy read. Sarah cuts to the chase. Each paragraph seeps into the next. The dialogue is sparse and springy. The story so far is matter-of-fact, neither exploitative nor self-pitying. The protagonist rationalizes her self-destruction so naturally that shooting rope almost sounds like a decent pastime.

It takes a hell of an author to pull that off, and I’m so glad I know her.

You can find Junkette on Amazon or order it from your neighborhood bookstore.

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