Book Review : Mercedes M. Yardley - Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love (2014)
"There's a lot of energy to you, Lu. Built up under your skin. Behind your eyes. One day, you're just going to explode."
I'm a stickler for a good love story and I mean that. If you're going to discuss the most powerful human emotion, you better do it right or else I'm going to tune you off. That's why I don't read romance: they are not even stories of love most times, but of desire. Nailing what love feels like and what it means in the spectrum of human interaction is actually quite difficult. Identifying what naturally binds people together is challenging, yet author Mercedes M. Yardley's novel Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love lived up to this challenge in a myriad of unexpected ways. I've heard praise for Yardley for a couple years not and let me tell you: believe the hype on this one. Let's get into the book.
I didn't know what I was getting into when I made Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu part of the roster for Ladies Month. I thought it was some kind of post-apocalyptic love novel and I couldn't have been more mistaken. Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu is a particularly intimate close up of a blossoming romantic relationship between an Asian-American serial killer and a stripper he kidnapped. Their very organic affair evolve in a fractal pattern into a tragic, self-consuming romance that can only end in the apocalypse. Lu is the nuclear weapon and Montessa is the end of the world he's been looking for through all these women he slain.
There are very few characters to Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu. None of them is really important aside perhaps from Montessa's abusive pre-kidnapping boyfriend Renan and the lack of a world around Montessa and Lulu is critical to the novel's success. Their relationship evolve quickly but they end up meaning the world to one another and they redefine one another's past by shoring a gap, fulfilling an invisible need for one another. A wordless longing. Mercedes M. Yardley painted two characters with clean (sometimes horrible) flaws and yet made them endearing for it because when the novel start, the need their though made them freaks is suddenly met.
The inside of his skull, it tasted like roses and barbed wire and butterflies. Switchblades and heroin and grassy green gardens.
Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu is not JUST a gritty romance though. Montessa and Lu don't JUST fall in love over the duration of the novel. There are some surprises along the way. Mercedes M. Yardley is a seasoned storyteller who just won a prestigious award and she takes on herself to bring out two "heroes" (because they are somewhat heroes to me) to unforeseen but fitting conclusion that it way to delightful for me to spoil. All I'm going to tell you is that the first line from Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love (my favorite love song AND the first dance to my future wedding) goes as follows: "dance me to your beauty with a burning violin". I won't say more, just know that it embodies the spirit of what Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu is about.
Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu is beautiful because it doesn't idealize love. It doesn't try to sell it to you. It present the most important human feeling as this jagged, violent thing we're all prey to and that's what makes it so goddamn relatable. Love is rooted in imperfection. In accepting one another's flaws and sticking up for each other through thick and thin, because the value your bring to each other's life overcomes everything else. Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu was a oddly moving, sloppy, yet controlled testament to this perfect imperfection that is love. Novels like Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu are why I don't read romance in general. I value proper representations of love too much to see it boiled down as a commodity. It has to be represented perfectly every time and Mercedes M. Yardley nailed it here.