A chance meeting at a bar draws a young woman into an investigation that unexpectedly brings her answers about her long-lost cousin.
This engrossing debut novel is driven by the powerful voices of the two cousins, who narrate alternating chapters. At 23, Rayelle lives in her mother’s trailer, “unwed, already the mother of a dead baby.” Growing up, she was inseparable from her cousin Khaki, three years older and the source of Rayelle’s wisdom about boys and bodies. But Khaki’s feelings for Rayelle are not innocent or simple: “I hated her. And loved her more than anything.” More than a decade ago, Khaki left town with a boyfriend and was never heard from again. Yet in the best and worst moments of Rayelle’s life, it’s still Khaki she wishes were by her side. Drinking away her nights, Rayelle meets Couper Gale, a man old enough to be her father, who tells her he pays attention for a living. The two fall into an unlikely pairing, traveling across multiple states in Gale’s Gran Torino by day and sleeping in his camper by night. An investigative reporter, he's chasing a pattern of missing girls. “Sometimes, a girl dissipates like smoke rising up into the air. So thin, you can’t see her anymore. She becomes a cloud. You breathe her in,” says Khaki, whom we quickly learn is a serial killer—surely one of fiction’s most complicated. Her penchant to destroy what she loves is an obsession she inflicts on women who were abused by those who should have kept them safe.
An intense, riveting saga of the multiplying casualties of one family’s secrets and a girl’s determination to take control after a childhood “that rips you apart so your insides are one big scar.”
Gritty, seductive, and completely mesmerizing, Jennifer Pashley’s debut novel
limns a trail of broken relationships, broken bones, and broken promises.
Be warned: these characters bloom so large on the page, you’ll ignore the real
world around you until the last tangled secret has been unraveled.
Shanna Mahin, author of Oh! You Pretty Things
Jennifer Pashley's The Scamp is a slow-burn thriller, a cherry bomb with an eight-inch wick. This is a novel brimming with atmosphere, with gorgeous details, with murder and gore, a smeary canvas portraying the hard-won lives of two broken women. It is a book that will make you have sympathy for the devil. And don't be fooled: that bomb goes off.
Linsday Hunter, author of Ugly Girls
The Scamp is knife and velvet, tongue and bone. Its pages smell of pool water, trailer sex, and huffed gasoline; they taste of reservation cigarettes and peaches from the can. Jennifer Pashley tells the brutal, elegiac story of two girls on the move: broken, burning, and so dangerously beautiful.
Dylan Landis, author of Rainey Royal
Jennifer Pashley’s stunning debut novel is wonderfully colorful and dangerous, following a tough, savvy narrator on a perilous trek toward release from a messy and difficult life, a dead child, a troubled and troubling family. Throughout, the marvelously rowdy narrator, Rayelle Reed, named by her father Ray after his favorite car, the Chevelle, mixes it up with and draws sustenance from a motley crew of slightly and more-than-slightly off-center characters, each of whom, in his or her way, adds richness and complexity to the hunt. Pashley writes like an angel who has spent time in parts South, figuratively and literally, and the pleasures of reading her are rich and satisfying.
Frederick Barthelme, author of There Must Be Some Mistake
These stories, like the characters who inhabit them, are tough-skinned and tender-hearted, and wickedly funny, as only the broken can be. Jennifer Pashley is the real conjurer here, pulling beauty from the despairs of ordinary people, splitting the skin of everyday tragedies, of people whose hearts have been ravaged and whose hands have done hurting, to reveal the hot pulsing hope in them, in all of us.
Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart
Praise for The Conjurer
[The Conjurer is] beautiful and sad as hell, sweaty and funny, sexy and often the exact opposite of sexy.
Alexander Yates, author of Moondogs
Jennifer Pashley is a phenomenal young writer with perfect pitch for the messy world we all live in now. The Conjurer is riddled with romance and terror, anxiety and mystery, threat and uneasy relief. All our frailties are on view--beautifully observed, served with the utmost generosity and largeness of heart, seen with the smartest eyes. She deserves an award for writing like this.
The stories in The Conjurer are unflinching in their portrayal of humans in love and the side effects of passion--strange consummations, half-hearted substitutions, moments of grace. Pashley is a hard luck oracle, tracing portents in a world heavy with the weight of not-quite babies, truck-stop infidelities, the ghosts of June Carter and Raymond Carver and Flannery O'Connor. These beautiful stories walk the edge between bravado and poetry, creating their own weird magic. One of the characters imagines being poisoned from the inside out by gold flaked from the rim of an old coffee cup; this collection accomplishes a similar feat, a gorgeous poisoning, Pashley's language a precious lethal substance spreading into all the hidden places.
Tina May Hall, author of The Physics of Imaginary Objects,
winner of the Drue Heinz Prize for Literature, 2010
Praise for States
Precise. Blunt. Funny. Scary. Bleak.
An inviting and well-carved debut
The world in Jennifer Pashley’s stories is wicked and seriously out-of-whack, remarkable and delicious—you never know who you’re going to run into. Pashley writes quick, tough dialog that cuts hard and scars, and her stories put you in places and circumstances you have little chance of getting to otherwise. She asks you to pay attention and use your imagination, and then treats you to the real pleasures of fiction, of character, of remarkable people in difficult times. Her work always stuns.