Lucky You by Erika Carter is a the kind of book you get lost in. This is rarely a good thing, in that the world she has created is not one most of us care to visit. However, it makes for an absorbing and captivating read.

Ellie, Chloe and Rachel are three college friends (kind of—Ellie and Chloe don’t really like each other very much) who find themselves thrown together in a rambling house in the middle-of-nowhere-Arkansas. Rachel and her boyfriend of the moment are living in a house that belongs to his family while trying to live off the land and consume less. Rachel convinces Chloe and Ellie to come live in the house, and as both are drifting and aimless, they eventually agree. Chloe has come to escape an impending mental breakdown. (She pulls the hair from her scalp so obsessively that she needs to creatively arrange her barrettes to cover the bald spots.) Ellie has come to escape alcoholism, her tendency toward self-destructive sexual encounters, and a recent break up.

Lucky You Erika CarterAfter a few months, baking bread and doing housework no longer seems ironic and hipster, yet none of them is able to find the strength to leave. They are all focused on Rachel’s boyfriend’s “Project,” a commune-style quest for health (whatever that means) that he plans to write about, though he hasn’t yet composed a sentence. Yet as each of the three women get sucked into isolation and despair, their physical and mental well-being deteriorates dramatically, even as they try to keep believing in the plan, as vague and insubstantial as it is. And since no other plan has presented itself, there’s little choice but to continue what they’re doing–smoking too much weed, sleeping all day, barely eating, and not interacting with the outside world. Yet the outside world continues to intrude, forcing the women to wonder which world is the unhealthy one—the one they’ve left or the one to which they’ve retreated.

Lucky You is a dark and cynical examination of female relationship, mental illness, self-absorption, self-destruction, and the post-college years. The characters are complex if unreachable and at turns relatable and unlikeable. Though I often felt the need to escape the hellish confines of the world these characters have created, I also found myself drawn back in and unable to put the book down. A layered and eerie novel that I finished quickly but found myself thinking about for days, Lucky You is an assured debut.

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Erika Carter is a master of short fiction, with some of her most popular works appearing in places like Colorado Review, South Carolina Review, New Ohio Review, and more. Lucky You is actually her first novel released to the public.

Erika holds an M.F.A. from the University of Arkansas and has received residencies from Vermont Studio Center and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. She has lived in a variety of places including Richmond, Virginia, the place she calls home. She lives with her husbanding artist, Rob Carter, and is currently at work with her second novel.