A memoir following the troubled life of Syrian immigrant Rayya Elias, Harley Loco invited me to pose as fly-on-the-wall through her toxic life of highs, lows and in-betweens. Alarming from the get-go, Harley Loco unleashes shock after eye-opening shock right through to the last page, making for a fulfilling yet rather exhausting read.
Harley Loco’s raw, unrefined language and tone creates a rich intensity as it shapes Rayya’s life as a passionately loving, uniquely individualistic, free-falling drug addict in gritty and unforgiving New York. Dealing with ingrained childhood issues she faced since her family fled Syria as well as a myriad of racial and social prejudices, Rayya spirals down, down, down into a life riddled with addictions, devastations and amazing haircuts. Moving back and forth between Detroit and New York City, Rayya’s life paints the harsh contrasts between “comfortable” suburban family life and the heady, rough and racy extremes of a tempting metropolis.
As I mentioned, Harley Loco was a very vigorous read and so I was notably exhausted after flipping the final page. I don’t think anyone could be quite prepared for the events and turning points of Rayya’s roller-coaster ride of life, let alone the emotions and agonizing senses of despair throughout.
Harley Loco by Rayya Elias is released May 2013.