In elementary school, I was friends with a girl named Suzanne Rivecca. Not Stand By Me-level friends, mind you; we didn’t really socialize outside of school. She was quiet and introverted and I had an entourage of guy friends who liked horror movies and pro wrestling. But I enjoyed any time I got an opportunity to sit next to her in class or at a school function because I had, over time, discovered a fiercely intelligent and funny person hiding beneath a shy exterior. I don’t know how many of my classmates ever got to know what a clever and witty person she was, but I remember feeling a little special being in on the secret. It was almost like being privy to the whereabouts of a hidden treasure.
Beyond grade school we both went separate ways, and we did not communicate again for over twenty years. But last year, thanks to miracles of online social networking, we reconnected on Facebook. I was not at all surprised to learn that she had become a writer and was pleased to discover that her first collection of short stories, entitled Death Is Not an Option, was about to come out. Needless to say, I pre-ordered my copy immediately, and began counting the days until I could read it. (I was particularly excited because she had promised me that there would be elements of her book that were drawn from, inspired by, or downright satirizing some of her school experiences—things I’d be sure to recognize.)
I devoured the book upon its arrival. I knew it was going to be good; I had found some samples of her writing online and could tell she was talented. But even still, it far surpassed my already high expectations. The seven stories in Death Is Not an Option surround strong female protagonists, each intelligent and self-aware, each struggling to connect to a world that often marginalizes or victimizes them. Many of her characters struggle with the scars inflicted by youthful experiences, from religious conditioning to high school interactions, from an emotionally distant father to a sexually abusive relative. Each of these women intends to rise above the hand that life has dealt them, but each is flawed in a way that makes such salvation difficult. All of them are searching for some sort of emotional peace in a chaotic, disaffecting world.
Rivecca’s prose is electric; she’s a master of description and pop culture references. Her acerbic humor sends sparks off the page. After reading this collection, I have no doubt that she will have a long, successful career ahead of her. Of course, this means that the intelligent, witty person that I used to know is no longer a secret; she’s on full display in the pages of this book. Come see what you’re missing.
Death Is Not an Option