If Quentin Tarantino tried his hand at Bonnie and Clyde, this is what it would look like. Beaird Glover's SYD & MARCY is a gritty novella set in the American South. Sydney and Marcy are two broken lovers who have the grand design of one day moving to Hollywood and making it big. But they need money for such a trip and they go about funding their exodus the only way they know how: robbery, murder and fraud. Their lawbreaking eventually makes them the subject of local police, in particular a detective with a flair for vigilantism.
As badly as this duo wants out of their Appalachian backwater, they are very much a product of the region's (at least as it is commonly portrayed) low education, poverty and hillbilly culture. Having grown up with a prostitute of a mother, Sydney suffers from alcoholism and also the gambling addict's persistent belief that "today's my day," while Marcy displays definite psychological baggage, including apathy whenever she takes a life, all of which is related to her abusive father and contributes to her devotion Sydney and his unrealistic grandiose schemes.
This book would definitely receive a hard "R" if it was a film, and readers should be aware for lots of language, frequent instances of sex and violence, and even incest and human captivity. I'm typically not a fan of this kind of fiction (I don't even really care for Tarantino to be honest) so it took a little while for me to begin to appreciate the story. Character development is the author's greatest strength. These characters range from depraved to disturbed, and in the case of Syd and Marcy, they really act as their own worst enemies throughout making bad decision after bad decision. While this can be frustrating for someone with common sense to read, it is refreshing to get away from fiction archetypes and see flawed characters making flawed decisions. This story's most noticeable weakness is that the ending seems a little rushed, and the resolution, while fitting, is only about half a page. As far as theme goes, I don't believe fiction always has to "say" something (sometimes a good story is just a good story), however I did detect some slight commentary on the part of the author on the impact of violent culture in media on youth development when he explains Marcy's blase attitude to taking life is related to her view that it is just acting.
All in all, SYD & MARCY is intriguing yet uncomfortable, and its length makes it short enough to not be an onerous commitment while long enough to be worthwhile investment.