cover image The Book of X

The Book of X

Sarah Rose Etter. Two Dollar Radio, $17.99 trade paper (284p) ISBN 978-1-937512-81-1

Set in a world that is an uncanny twin of the real, Etter’s ultrastylized and surreal debut casts a reflection that, like a carnival mirror, points aptly, if heavy-handedly, at humanity’s defects. Narrator Cassie is born with her stomach twisted into a knot , and her coiled figure is one of the many tensions that spring the novel’s action and lyricism. Cassie is bullied at school, makes a friend in Sophia (who is also bullied), and aches while looking at the beauty magazines collected by her image-obsessed, similarly knotted mother. Cassie’s solipsism is as extreme as her paradoxical universe: her father harvests protein from a “red, fleshy canyon,” called the Meat Quarry, her mother feeds her rocks as diet-food. Cassie is raped by a boy named Jarred she had developed a crush on, and after high school, she moves to a city. There, she gets a dull office job, drinks alone in bars, and is sometimes successful in her attempts to sleep with strangers, all while contending with loneliness and the separation she feels from the world around her. Etter’s coming-of-age story builds intrigue as it morphs into a portrait of a young woman adrift, but the narrative is often obscured by Cassie’s fragmented, lyrical voice, resulting in an uneven debut.[em] (July) [/em]