Pickle’s Progress: A Novel by Marcia Butler


A worm in Pickle’s brain told him this was reasoning he should bite on. Everyone was entitled to a breakdown or a breakthrough, and if he were honest with himself, Pickle wasn’t sure which he were facing.

What did I just read? Twin brothers Stan and Pickle McArdle are just as connected, though grown men, as they were in their toxic mother’s womb. They don’t live together anymore, which is a bit inconvenient for Pickle and Karen, but when Karen and her husband Stan get in an accident intoxicated out of their minds (a common occurence) a mixed up young woman named Junie becomes a strange catalyst for some serious sibling rivalry. Does it count as sibling rivalry if you’re unaware of it (Stan)? Is this entanglement a New York thing, kidding… It’s handy that Stan’s brother is on the police force, Pickle always comes through and cleans up their messes. This time the mess is coming home with Stan and Karen, Junie “a woman standing directly in front of them, perhaps five hundred yards away, with her hands at the side of her face, mouth open, like the Edvard Munch painting”, the reason for the accident. Boyfriend Jacob jumped off the bridge, but she didn’t follow. That’s the problem with pacts, someone often opts out after you’ve already committed, or chooses to do it without you. June is Pickle’s favorite month, could love be on the rise? Karen’s reasons for helping out a stranger in dire need of support begins to make sense as she befriends Junie, who feels like a freeloader. Stan isn’t thrilled about the young woman living in their brownstone, his nature is ‘odd’ but Karen seems more overbearing mother than wife.

Pickle, cleaned up all nice, takes in interest in Junie while also making demands on Karen, and what a deceptive piece our Karen is. Secrets, betrayals and at the heart of it all it began with a mother who chose one twin as her favorite. I kept having to remind myself this was written by a woman, Pickle has plenty of reasons for his rage towards Karen, his envy toward his brother, resentment too but I didn’t feel there was a woman’s voice, isn’t that odd? We’re meant to have empathy for Karen, but in my mind her arm didn’t take much twisting and certainly she isn’t as smart as she plays up when there are a million ways she could have handled everything. I know, it makes no sense until you read, but I refuse to post spoilers. Junie is this mess that could have been a hell of a character but instead spends more time in retreat.

I hate you, I love you would be the perfect summary for what is going on between all the major players. Karen has the perfect setup, she has Pickle right where she wants him but he isn’t playing her game anymore. Her control is dimishing. It’s that ‘breakdown’ or ‘breakthrough’ thing racing through Pickle’s veins, plans swirling through his mind that won’t allow him to live in shackles anymore, funny for a cop, how captive he’s allowed himself to be.  Junie, despite Stan’s resistance, could be an antidote to all his misery. Stan is the most believable character, his artlessness, his lack of self-awareness, it’s obvious he doesn’t slip out of his own mind enough to wonder at everything happening all around him. It’s hard to hate him, there’s something childlike about him. The twins are wildly different, Pickle is abrasive where Stan is diluted in his ‘masculinity’ so to speak. Which unraveling Stan makes it easy to understand why their twisted mother favored him, if she had a bone in her body of maternal love, which is doubtful, it’s possible there was fear he would be lost on his own. Junie, I don’t know, she was more a presence than a character I could connect with. Pickle and Karen, those two are absolutely their own problem and each other’s. I just could not like either of them. I still don’t have a clue who Junie is, to be honest. I keep going back to her angry because she should have blazed brighter with such a wild start.

The ending, maybe a little too neat for me. I mean, all’s well that ends well, really? I want to witness the confrontations, you’re telling me everything just lines up? Who are these people?

Publication Date: April 9, 2019

Central Avenue Publishing



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s