The Audacious Book Club: Hot Springs Drive by Lindsay Hunter
Our December 2023 Selection
In her debut novel Ugly Girls, Lindsay Hunter’s high school protagonists are both risk-takers from the jump. Perry has cultivated her loveliness alongside her depravity; Baby Girl, meanwhile, has cultivated ugliness along with a lust for chaos. The girls are lonely and bored, desperate for validation and distraction, and the dire state of their existence makes skipping class, having sex, and stealing from their local pharmacy far more appealing than reckoning with the disability, poverty, alcoholism, and trauma that weigh constantly on their lives. Their decisions to seek out increasingly thrilling and insidious forms of danger finally converge when they discover they are both texting and chatting with the same guy. It is no surprise that the guy, the hinge on which even more sadness and disaster rests, both for the girls and for the guy himself.
Hunter’s third novel Hot Springs Drive, which came out with my imprint last month, takes the seeds of longing and depravity and the titillation of the love triangle that Hunter planted in Ugly Girls and allows them to bloom into a narrative that is, in many ways, even more disturbing and heart wrenching than her debut.
Jackie Stinson is an ex–emotional eater and mother of four who has finally lost the weight she long yearned to be free of. She now goes by Jacqueline, a name she thinks is a better fit for her slim new body. While Jacqueline believes she should be happier, misery still chases her, and motherhood threatens to subsume what little is left. Jacqueline’s only salve is her best friend Theresa, whose seemingly perfect life she desperately covets. Since they met in the maternity ward fifteen years earlier, the two have survived the trials of motherhood side by side—Theresa with her quiet, cherubic daughter, and Jacqueline with her rambunctious, unruly boys. Their bond is tight, but it is not enough to keep Jacqueline from stealing a bit of Theresa’s perfect life and then much more than a bit.
Hot Springs Drive reminds us that, although we like to pretend the base, violent world of Ugly Girls is completely separate from our own, we are wrong. The same lust and ugliness, the same jealousy and vengefulness, the same boredom and loneliness and desire for validation is in our world too, hiding behind the curtains of the beautiful apartment next door or behind the walls of the most perfect house on our cul-de-sac.
Hot Springs Drive is a haunting, thrilling novel, one I was delighted to discover and excited to publish. As I mentioned in my post on publication day, I knew immediately once I started reading it that I wanted to publish this book. Hunter has a way of writing about the insatiable appetites we all have that is endlessly interesting, and I’m thrilled to bring you this book as our final read of 2023. I’m truly looking forward to discussing this excellent book with you over the next few weeks. We will be in conversation with Lindsay on December 20th.
Have you started reading yet? What are your first impressions?