Brian Allen Carr’s short novel is an odyssey of a week in a normal life, broken up by long chapters for each day. The days are long, but the book is quick.
Opioid, Indiana is about a teenager called Riggle. His dad is dead and his mom his dead. He’s been passed around the foster system and even the homes of his family, depending on whether someone wants to go through the hassle of feeding a kid to collect checks. Riggle is from Texas, but his screwup uncle in small-town Indiana decides to take him in and let him finish high school from up there. Riggle is pretty normal, but maybe a little more thoughtful than most kids. Due to a mixup with his counselor involving a vape pen he is suspended. He wanders through the small town and tries to make sense of an eclectic set of characters – Autistic Ross, the Bicycling Confederate, his uncle’s girlfriend Peggy, and more. If it was a movie, I think it’d be directed by 2010s Harmony Korrine. It’s weird, dreamlike, full of interesting people and moments.
This is the rare book that is both heavy and enjoyable. It’s poignant without being maudlin, smart without being cynical. Write Nick Flynn said this one is made up of “sideways kindnesses and glimmers wonder…full of gorgeous language and wild insights.”
I agree with that. It’s an honest book with hope, which maybe is something we could all use right now. I was surprised to see fairly low reviews on Goodreads for this (sub 4s), as I found it to be both accessible and literary. Maybe it’s too in the middle. Maybe if you’re in the middle, you’d like it.