"Claire Luchette's debut opens with a rupture in familiarity that snowballs—Agatha and her sisters, all women religious in their late twenties, must leave the comfort of their convent when their parish goes bankrupt. Agatha, our narrator, begins her account of their journey to their next assignment by retreating to the safety of the collective 'we,' but her selfhood snags on a hangnail of difference almost immediately; "how wonderful," she thinks of her sisters' outward calm in the face of their upheaval, "it would be, to wring yourself of questions." From this aperture of doubt, Luchette's simple and luminous prose pours forth like a cascade of ordinary pebbles tumbled to a liquid sheen. Within Little Neon's lurid green frame, their characters grapple with belief and its limits, on macro- and micro-scales: the many mechanisms and distractions available to people who want to preclude knowledge of themselves, the price of solving for uncertainty with a set of answers whose rigid application, more often than not, provides a cover for the behavior of fallible men rather than a balm for the vulnerable and struggling. As any good art about faith should, this lucid, lovely novel troubles the concept of an easy resolution. Rather, the act of choosing to keep moving through that mire of uncertainty will feel holy to any readers whose own questions, like mine, refuse to be wrung out."
"Blazingly original, wry, and perfectly attuned to the oddness—and the profundity—of life” (Cristina Henríquez), Claire Luchette's debut, Agatha of Little Neon, is a novel about yearning and sisterhood, figuring out how you fit in (or don’t), and the unexpected friends who help you find your truest self
Agatha has lived every day of the last nine years with her sisters: they work together, laugh together, pray together. Their world is contained within the little house they share. The four of them are devoted to Mother Roberta and to their quiet, purposeful life.
But when the parish goes broke, the sisters are forced to move. They land in Woonsocket, a former mill town now dotted with wind turbines. They take over the care of a halfway house, where they live alongside their charges, such as the jawless Tim Gary and the headstrong Lawnmower Jill. Agatha is forced to venture out into the world alone to teach math at a local all-girls high school, where for the first time in years she has to reckon all on her own with what she sees and feels. Who will she be if she isn’t with her sisters? These women, the church, have been her home. Or has she just been hiding?
Disarming, delightfully deadpan, and full of searching, Claire Luchette’s Agatha of Little Neon offers a view into the lives of women and the choices they make. It is a novel about sisterhood, friendship, and devotion, about figuring out how we fit in (or don’t), and about the unexpected friends who help us find our truest selves.