cover image You Feel It Just Below the Ribs

You Feel It Just Below the Ribs

Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson. Harper Perennial, $16.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-306662-5

Cranor (cocreator of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale) and Matthewson (Of Things Gone Astray) present a sprawling tale of survival, detachment, and sacrifice set in the alternate 20th-century world of their Within the Wires podcast. Presented as the autobiography of Dr. Miriam Gregory, the story describes how Miriam weathered the Great Reckoning, a decades-long war that touched her childhood with trauma and tragedy. A meditative process helps her to detach from her painful experiences, and her later work as a psychologist allows her to adapt the practice on behalf of the New Society, which springs up in the war’s wake. The New Society adopts Miriam’s technique to prevent tribalism, nationalism, and future war—but it requires the total isolation of individuals, even from nuclear family, and the results of its implementation are devastating. Though Miriam’s internal monologue sometimes meanders, the authors succeed in crafting a fascinatingly complex narrator, and the footnotes commenting on her work—and calling it into question—are equally layered. Throughout, the novel raises the question of what humanity should sacrifice to avoid future conflict, and whether those sacrifices are worth it. Readers who enjoy dystopian tales and unreliable narrators will find much to dissect in this haunting, heart-wrenching novel. (Nov.)