“In Case of Emergency” by Courtney Moreno

mcsweeneys.net

mcsweeneys.net

Piper Gallagher, the Angeleno narrator of this debut novel, fits neatly into the tradition of fictional twenty-somethings searching for love and rent money in beautiful, indifferent cities. Adrift after a breakup, she takes a job as an EMT, bringing her to cases that baffle and traumatize her, like that of a gunshot victim who was assumed dead and left on a sidewalk overnight. She also navigates her relationships with her family and her new lover Ayla, a veteran wrestling with the effects of a brain injury sustained in Iraq. Much of this novel is recognizable from other works in its tradition, and it occasionally veers toward cliché (one character says, “You can’t let people go every time you get too close”). The sheer earnestness of Piper’s narration precludes the depth of more challenging fiction. She doubts herself, but doesn’t think of much beyond her immediate surroundings. In Case of Emergency is nonetheless moving, and Piper’s intermittent reflections on the human body bring it into more thoughtful territory: “All this visceral sensitivity, stored in your antennae-studded nervous system; your skin all that separates you from constant daily stimuli. And you, a living conduit.”

–Published in September by McSweeney’s (at which, full disclosure, I was once an intern)

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