The Book of X

The Book of X

The Book of X tells the tale of Cassie, a girl born with her stomach twisted in the shape of a knot. From childhood with her parents on the family meat farm, to a desk job in the city, to finally experiencing love, she grapples with her body, men, and society, all the while imagining a softer world than the one she is in....

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Title:The Book of X
Author:Sarah Rose Etter
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Book of X Reviews

  • Cassie (book__gal)

    I’m obsessed with this book! Sarah Rose Etter has shown how you can push fiction to its bounds, break through, and create a wonderful, eccentric blend of storytelling, surrealism, insight into the female experience, and visceral portrayals of humanity and the loneliness, pain, and longing that come with it.

    Etter’s shrewdness regarding female suffering, being different, and societal expectations of normality are what makes this narrative so powerful. We follow Cassie, born with her stomach tied

    I’m obsessed with this book! Sarah Rose Etter has shown how you can push fiction to its bounds, break through, and create a wonderful, eccentric blend of storytelling, surrealism, insight into the female experience, and visceral portrayals of humanity and the loneliness, pain, and longing that come with it.

    Etter’s shrewdness regarding female suffering, being different, and societal expectations of normality are what makes this narrative so powerful. We follow Cassie, born with her stomach tied in a knot, as she moves through life as a girl who is not like others. Etter employs storytelling that is simultaneously real: family drama, obsession with weight, your first intense female friendship, the boy who treats you horribly but you love nonetheless...and the unreal: rivers of thighs, harvesting meat from the land, fields of throats. Even with all this imagery, Etter manages to be economical with her words; always something I admire in writing: the ability to paint a sublime picture with words that aren’t flowery or too heavy.

    I actually found myself staring off into the stack of raw steaks next to the grill for Easter dinner last night thinking about the Meat Quarry on Cassie’s family land...I can’t stop thinking about this book. Safe to say it is one of my favorite books this year. I’m so excited for this to come out and for readers to experience its magic. Also stoked that we have such an innovative new voice on the literary scene in Etter - indie press Two Dollar Radio garnered my respect and praise last year when they introduced me to Katya Apekina with her novel,

    , and once again, I am totally wowed by the phenomenal, female-led stories they are putting out into the world. Add this to you TBRs NOW! Thank you Two Dollar Radio for sending me a copy of The Book of X 🖤

  • Katharine

    A taut, devastating novel concerning the body as landscape. Readers upset by the grosteque or surreal need not apply.

  • Hannah Colton

    Beautiful, haunting, viscerally affecting, with brilliant layers of commentary on society's exploitation, scrutiny, and consumption of women's bodies (and bodies in general). If you're a fan of Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, you'll get into this.

  • Roxane

    There is a quarry made of meat, marbled rich with fat. There is a family who lives at the meat quarry’s edge. There is a girl who lives with a knotted body, as does her mother, as does her mother’s mother. There is a girl who yearns to be seen with kind eyes, to be touched with soft hands, to be loved by an open heart. In the utterly unique and remarkable The Book of X, Sarah Rose Etter has crafted an intriguing world not quite like our own. She takes the surreal and expertly shapes it into a po

    There is a quarry made of meat, marbled rich with fat. There is a family who lives at the meat quarry’s edge. There is a girl who lives with a knotted body, as does her mother, as does her mother’s mother. There is a girl who yearns to be seen with kind eyes, to be touched with soft hands, to be loved by an open heart. In the utterly unique and remarkable The Book of X, Sarah Rose Etter has crafted an intriguing world not quite like our own. She takes the surreal and expertly shapes it into a portrait that is as beautiful and compelling as it is horrifying and unbearable. In doing so, Etter brilliantly, viciously lays bare what it means to be a woman in the world, what it means to hurt, to need, to want, so much it consumes everything.

  • Megan O'Hara

    this book is a lump in my throat! this book made me start crying out of nowhere! everything hurts!!! I wasn't sure how I felt about it until the last ~20 pages when my face starting leaking. the protagonist's relationship with her mother continues to wound me, maybe more so than anything else there is a scene with her mom that spooks me in how easily it made me feel things I actively avoid feeling. anyway! the book is so very sad & gross & so so bleak. IF I read one more book about the w

    this book is a lump in my throat! this book made me start crying out of nowhere! everything hurts!!! I wasn't sure how I felt about it until the last ~20 pages when my face starting leaking. the protagonist's relationship with her mother continues to wound me, maybe more so than anything else there is a scene with her mom that spooks me in how easily it made me feel things I actively avoid feeling. anyway! the book is so very sad & gross & so so bleak. IF I read one more book about the world being too painful for women to live in.....wrap me in tinfoil & put me in the microwave boys I'm done.

    TLDR: haha ouchie :•)

    cw: rape, suicide

  • The Nerd Daily

    | Review by Beth Mowbray

    The Book of X follows Cassie, a girl who is born with her stomach literally twisted in a knot, from her childhood into her adult years. Cassie is raised on a meat farm, a piece of land with an enormous quarry where her father and brother work all day mining meat. Cassie’s overbearing mother spends her days obsessively cleaning the house and even more obsessively harping on Cassie’s appearance while pretending to ignore her own

    | Review by Beth Mowbray

    The Book of X follows Cassie, a girl who is born with her stomach literally twisted in a knot, from her childhood into her adult years. Cassie is raised on a meat farm, a piece of land with an enormous quarry where her father and brother work all day mining meat. Cassie’s overbearing mother spends her days obsessively cleaning the house and even more obsessively harping on Cassie’s appearance while pretending to ignore her own knotted stomach. More than anything Cassie wants to be like other girls her age, to be “normal.” So she finishes school and moves into the city, grateful to be away from her family and ready to navigate the world independently. Yet she continues to be inhibited by her physical deformity, always dreaming of a life without the knot and never content.

    This novel is an incredible example of surrealism in current literary fiction. Etter blurs the line between the grotesque and real life, normative experiences. In one scene, the world appears as it should be, in the next it may as well be melting before your eyes like a Dali painting. The reader never knows what they might find upon turning the page – perhaps a river of thighs or a shop where one may have their jealousy physically excised like a tumour. Interwoven are scenes more traditional for a coming-of-age tale: disagreements between Cassie and her mother, bullying by peers at school, and the bonds of female friendship. Combined skilfully, these devices work as both symbolism and commentary on themes central to the female experience such as body image and beauty, acceptance and loss, identity and gender roles.

    Merely scanning through the pages of The Book of X, it is immediately clear this book is different from any other. The structure is built upon tight prose that is sectioned off into small blocks, often less than a page each. This minimalist approach provides pieces of a puzzle that fall into place as the story progresses. Echoing how the content of the story distorts reality, the unconventional structure stretches the normal bounds of a novel by combining the main narrative with two other elements: visions of a different, dream-like reality and bulleted lists of facts relating back to the storyline.

    Each of these unique choices made by Etter, along with the severe beauty and crippling pain of her writing, work together to create a singular emotional experience. This novel sustains an atmosphere of discomfort for the majority of its 279 pages. A feeling of being completely transfixed by something terrible, unable to look away. Etter has such a compelling way of communicating emotion that reading this novel becomes an immersive act. Without hesitation, I highly recommend The Book of X! It is one of the most visceral, mind-bending reading experiences I have had in a very long time.

    My sincere thanks to Two Dollar Radio for the advance copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

  • Lark Benobi

    Perfection of a kind. A musky odor emanates from every sentence, and each word seems meticulously chosen to evoke, mm, something like sanguinarian, or even coprophilic pleasure. This is ruthless, relentless, and visionary writing. The story could well mean more than its superficial meanings, I'm open to it

    more...something deeply feminist...something deep about the many indignities and pains suffered by any person living inside a female body...but even before I try to ruminate over any possible

    Perfection of a kind. A musky odor emanates from every sentence, and each word seems meticulously chosen to evoke, mm, something like sanguinarian, or even coprophilic pleasure. This is ruthless, relentless, and visionary writing. The story could well mean more than its superficial meanings, I'm open to it

    more...something deeply feminist...something deep about the many indignities and pains suffered by any person living inside a female body...but even before I try to ruminate over any possible metaphorical meanings I am filled with admiration, with elation even, for Sarah Rose Etter, and for her clarity of vision, and for the way she dares to be this ruthless in her storytelling.

    Ok, I loved it. Even though I feel a little sick.

    People who have followed me a while know I have a beloved shelf for what I call

    After reading

    I'm thinking I need a sub-shelf for unabashedly, bravely

    books, where I would give this novel a place of honor, along with recently read, much admired novels

    by

    ,

    by

    , and

    by

    . I can't say whether this is a trend, or whether I'm simply attracted to these wild-and-musky-female-author-breaks-every-taboo type of novel right now, but all of these novels gave me the same mixed feeling of nausea & joyful release.

    If you decide to read this novel, or to read any of the others I'm mentioning here, I'd love for you to ping me with your review. Something wild unites them all.

  • Lori

    In

    we meet Cassie, a complicated young woman who was born with a unique genetic mutation, her stomach is literally twisted into a knot, a disfigurement that seems to be passed down to each female in the family. Told in a barrage of flash fictiony vignettes, we become hopeless observers as Cassie alternates between moments of severe self-love and self-hate, falling victim to bullying, developing a lukewarm friendship with a girl named Sophia, manuevering through awkward parental rela

    In

    we meet Cassie, a complicated young woman who was born with a unique genetic mutation, her stomach is literally twisted into a knot, a disfigurement that seems to be passed down to each female in the family. Told in a barrage of flash fictiony vignettes, we become hopeless observers as Cassie alternates between moments of severe self-love and self-hate, falling victim to bullying, developing a lukewarm friendship with a girl named Sophia, manuevering through awkward parental relationships, and ultimately falling prey at the hands of Jarred, a boy at school with whom she had started to massively crush on.

    Haunted by the reality of her body and damaged by what Jarred did to her, we follow Cassie as she escapes The Acres and moves to the city in an attempt to lead a normal life... working an unglamorous job, picking up strange men at the bar, and undergoing a procedure she believes for once will make her whole.

    As lovely as it is grotesque, Sarah Rose Etter's lyrical prose pulls us along through a surreal landscape of meat quarries, rivers of thighs, fields of throats, and meetings with doctors who perform bizarre surgeries. The

    never ceases to amaze and awe.

    As I read this, I couldn't help compare Sarah's style of writing to that of

    . If you dig this book, you absolutely need to pick up his novel

    . These two were made for one another!

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Cassie is born with a knot, just like her mother and grandmother. She enters a world of bullying, inadequate medical care, isolation and boredom. Outside of school her life seems intended for repetition of pain and cleaning the walls with lemons, while her father and brother work in the meat quarry, but her life is vivid with visions that provide some form of escape, although it isn't always positive. (It's fascinating to read interviews with the author because she was incredibly isolated in Ice

    Cassie is born with a knot, just like her mother and grandmother. She enters a world of bullying, inadequate medical care, isolation and boredom. Outside of school her life seems intended for repetition of pain and cleaning the walls with lemons, while her father and brother work in the meat quarry, but her life is vivid with visions that provide some form of escape, although it isn't always positive. (It's fascinating to read interviews with the author because she was incredibly isolated in Iceland while writing most of this. The landscape feels unworldly in that way that only Iceland can.)

    The cover is striking. When I saw it online I thought it was sunset in a valley, then I realized it's hair and a woman in the center, but now that I've read it I realize it is both and also probably the meat quarry.

    The feeling of the novel kept making me think of

    by Margarita Karapanou, mixed with

    .

  • Erin

    As usual for me: I don't consider what follows to be a review, so much as notes for later reference.

    Lately I've been been dealing with physical, chronic pain and also thinking about what pain can be -- slippery, elusive, concrete, remembered, forgotten, a leader, a follower, much more. The Book of X gets at pain from countless and underrepresented angles. ("Gets at" is the best verb I can summon, because the range is too close to be a theme or a study.) It wasn't until I finished it

    As usual for me: I don't consider what follows to be a review, so much as notes for later reference.

    Lately I've been been dealing with physical, chronic pain and also thinking about what pain can be -- slippery, elusive, concrete, remembered, forgotten, a leader, a follower, much more. The Book of X gets at pain from countless and underrepresented angles. ("Gets at" is the best verb I can summon, because the range is too close to be a theme or a study.) It wasn't until I finished it that I realized: even the novel's structure relies on the experiences of pain.

    It might seem like I'm describing a bummer of a reading experience, but....it absolutely wasn't. I'm in a mode right now where it takes very little for me to become frustrated, lose my temper, much less set a book aside. But I read it straight through. Amongst other things, The Book of X is a unique opportunity for some shared experience that's otherwise very elusive. And I really, really appreciated that.

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