Books

Deliver Me by Elle Nash review – transgressive thrills

The latest from the British-American author is a deeply unsettling exploration of the fringes of society

Deliver Me by Elle Nash

I’m always interested in new voices in fiction, writers looking to push boundaries. The mainstream publishing industry is very conservative in its tastes, so it can be hard to find daring, transgressive authors. But Deliver Me by Elle Nash takes chances with thrilling results.

The British-American author has had a couple of novels and a short story collection previously published by small presses, all of which were beautifully written and deliciously dark. Deliver Me follows in the footsteps of those books, while demonstrating an ever-improving sense of craft.

The book centres around Dee-Dee, a young woman living in a small town in the Ozarks. Dee-Dee has had a number of miscarriages already, so is thrilled to discover that she’s pregnant again, though she is obviously anxious too. Dee-Dee works tough shifts at a meatpacking factory, slaughtering thousands of chickens in a viscerally described opening that promises much of the body horror mayhem that is to come. She also lives with ex-con boyfriend Daddy, who has an exotic insect fetish, and she’s being pestered by her mother to return to the Pentecostal church she has abandoned.

Into this stressful melting pot comes Sloane, Dee-Dee’s old friend from school, who moves in upstairs and reveals that she too is pregnant. This throws Dee-Dee’s mind for a loop, and we get into unreliable narrator territory as the story progresses into ever murkier psychological waters. There’s no denying that Nash’s writing and the things she writes about are on the fringes of the mainstream. This is a deeply unsettling book from the start, and there is a slowly creeping dread that builds as the narrative twists and turns to a satisfying and shocking climax. 

Throughout, Nash feels like a writer completely in control of her story, her language precise and specific as she gets deeper and deeper into the complex subconsciouses and psyches of her cast of damaged characters. 

Deliver Me by Elle Nash

Doug Johnstone is an author and journalist.

Deliver Me by Elle Nash is out on 27 June (Verve Books, £9.99). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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