A hero’s journey through a dying empire. On the Road for a beaten generation. After V meets Lex, a butch painter, at an underground punk show, they enter a multi-year relationship that ranges from Portland, Oregon, to New York City, and finally Los Angeles, with V’s family of origin ever interjecting with dysfunction and neediness. Her brother has retreated into a hodgepodge of Eastern religiosity and their mother’s addictions are worsening. Meanwhile her father is busy building a new family, as sunny as V’s childhood was grim. Leroy, V’s gay best friend, has chosen rural peace, but V can’t find the same satisfaction – anywhere. Ever in search of love, meaning, and temp work, V hurtles across the US, resisting the store-bought narratives of mainstream life to create a freedom all her own.
With heady pacing, a recursive structure, and sharp prose, STILL ALIVE renders the much-maligned adult millennial experience with affection and profundity. In this story, as in life, there’s no cure for living.
What People Are Saying
“Here is the highest compliment I can pay a fellow artist—when I reached the last page, the last line, the final word of LJ Pemberton’s Still Alive, it was enough.
“A love story rendered in a pointillism so wholly convincing it might as well be photo-realism and with just that remove—‘It is a comedy, youth,’ ‘it is easier to admit how sad I am if I call myself a fool’—that allows us to near the flame and have our own wounds cauterized, not burned. Like watching a skilled surgeon tend to those wounds—figuring out ‘what is a cut and what is just blood’—and not know which it is that commands the attention, the hurt or the healing.
“This is what it’s like when, sometime between getting out of bed and returning to it, you encounter a work of art. This is what it’s like when someone else’s truth reads like your own. This is what it’s like to feel less alone.”
—Guillermo Stitch, author of Lake of Urine
“Wryly smart, intensely, erotically hot, and with observations that routinely hit with the force of a revelation, Still Alive introduces the world to a literary voice that is utterly engrossing and from whom I can’t wait to read more. Through the course of a young woman’s relationships, friendships, and family dramas, this is a novel that deftly explores the lassitude and the joy of Figuring Things Out, the sense that you are deeply lucky and beautiful while existing in the middle of heartbreak or loss, and where your simmering potential is never unlived but ultimately enlivens you. I love it very much and can’t recommend it enough.”
—Mary South, author of You Will Never Be Forgotten
“This is a book for wanderers and searchers, a love story with all of the attendant cliches wadded into a ball and tossed overboard. LJ Pemberton has written a quarter-life raft for the dissatisfied and unmoored. Still Alive is punch-drunk and furious, listless and wondrous, brilliantly funny and sexy as hell. I devoured it.”
“Still Alive is set to the speed of life, by which I don’t mean first lust, heartbreak, and reckoning with one’s parents, though it certainly has all those. I mean the BenGay, Häagen-Dazs, maxed-out credit, and network television that is the real sum of our experience as upright animals. Everything is realism if it works, but Pemberton is attuned to what really fills our anxious lives in between odysseys. Blood and quiet, sex and rain.”
—JW McCormack, literary editor at The Baffler
“Superb and thought-provoking! With lyrical prose, bittersweet humor and poignant observations, LJ Pemberton’s Still Alive unravels an intimate narrative of sharply observed characters trying to figure out how to live apart and with one another.”
— Xuan Juliana Wang, author of Home Remedies