“Book Review: The Book of X”
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
A raw, fleshy understanding of womanhood.
I’ve never had a reading experience quite like The Book of X. Told in three parts, Sarah Rose Etter spares no creative detail with this unique story. From the meat quarry where Cassie’s family works to the rawness of a woman’s reality at the hands of bad men, this novel will leave you stunned.
In The Book of X, Cassie is born with the same medical condition that plagues her mother and grandmother: a knot protruding from her stomach. Throughout her life she is met with disdain from her peers, a freak in their eyes. At home she is being sculpted into a housewife, a role that seems unlikely for her personality, and as she ages, we witness the mundanity that takes over with the auto-pilot button pushed on her life. We follow Cassie as she endures her loneliness and waits for something big enough to come along and make it all seem worth it.
“In the morning, in the bathroom, red is smeared across my face. I grin into my reflection, a wild animal.”
This book is grotesque and fascinating with malformed characters, bloody situations, and cruel interactions. Each section seems to take the grotesqueness a step further but somehow in an entirely different direction. Meat is hidden beneath the earth and written about in gruesome detail but remains a casual part of the lives in the world Etter has created. The dismissiveness and emotional situations in part two feels just as gut-wrenching, with less blood. I was overwhelmingly impressed and intrigued by it all.
This bleak reality is mirrored through sections she titles “Visions,” which narrate a more hopeful, positive life Cassie believes would be worth living. Cassie mixes in other dream scenarios like a man store, a jealousy removal shop, and more to accompany the often intensely emotional real world of The Book of X. With these visions, both Cassie and the reader feel sorrow for what cannot be.
Sarah Rose Etter is candid with her portrayal of the men in Cassie’s life. Whether cutting into her with knives or words, they always pack a well-disguised punch. She is often taken advantage of or abandoned once they see her reality. Even on her best day, she’s not shielded from their heckling, and as high as they are able to build her up, the fall is almost always certain and messy.
“In the streets, the sun shines and it is for me…. I walk to the main streets, chin up in the crowd, finally a part of the throbbing city.
‘What are you smiling about, you ugly bitch?‘ shouts a man on the street.”
In this novel, Etter makes the surreal seem not that far off. With slight, dramatic twists of reality, The Book of X gets weird in the best way possible. From the first to the last page, there is no space for pause. Prepare to be left thinking about this book long after you’ve finished it.
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio
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