Read With Us
Winter Selection 2022
Claire Luchette’s winning novel, Agatha of Little Neon, brings the reader beyond voyeurism into the mind of 29-year-old Agatha, who, with her three sisters, finds herself working in Little Neon, a Mountain Dew-colored halfway house in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The women are ill-prepared for the work, having previously run a diocese daycare, and do a mostly terrible job of caring for the released prisoners and recovering addicts under their supervision. The novel’s substantial, subversive humor comes from the sisters’ foibles, as they try to use toddler parenting techniques on wayward adult residents, institute a mandatory bible study that comes with free mustard, cook truly awful meals, and insist on the power of faith to mend all wounds.
It’s this last tendency that cuts through the surface-level tweeness of Agatha of Little Neon, exposing a secondary focus on how the sisters’ stubborn blindness to the Church’s crimes, and their forced naïveté about the efficacy of faith in helping people recover from the consequences of poverty, cause real harm to the vulnerable individuals in their care. Agatha alone seems to struggle with disappointment and anger, and her gradual shift away from obedience toward observation and response forms the emotional core of the novel. Luchette’s quiet exploration of what it means to fracture your life twice — first, in surrendering the self to God, and second, in reclaiming it — provides a powerful balance to the novel’s lighter notes; and if the ending feels inevitable, it also feels well-earned.
A rare, delightful story that marries entertainment with profundity, Agatha of Little Neon is a sparkling debut from a writer to watch.
Information About the Author
Claire Luchette has published work in the Virginia Quarterly Review, the Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and Granta. A 2020 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Luchette graduated from the University of Oregon MFA program and has received grants and scholarships from MacDowell, Yaddo, the Millay Colony for the Arts, Lighthouse Works, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and the James Merrill House. Agatha of Little Neon is Luchette’s first novel.
- From America: The Jesuit Review (this review compares Matrix by Lauren Groff and Agatha of Little Neon by Claire Luchette)
- From Chicago Review of Books
- From Kirkus
NPR – In ‘Agatha Of Little Neon,’ Four Young Nuns Go To Help Others, And Find Themselves