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The Book of X

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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.

284 pages, Paperback

First published July 16, 2019

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About the author

Sarah Rose Etter

12 books388 followers
Sarah Rose Etter is the author of Tongue Party, and The Book of X, winner of a Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel. Her second novel, RIPE, is forthcoming from Scribner in July 2023.

Her work has appeared in Time, Guernica, BOMB, The Bennington Review, The Cut, VICE, and elsewhere. She has been awarded residences at the Jack Kerouac House, the Disquiet International program in Portugal, and the Gullkistan Writing Residency in Iceland.

She earned her BA in English from Pennsylvania State University and her MFA in fiction from Rosemont College. She lives in Los Angeles. For more info, visit SarahRoseEtter.com.

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820 (37%)
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329 (15%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 416 reviews
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 118 books157k followers
March 13, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book1,861 followers
January 11, 2023
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 meaning 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 ruthless books. After reading The Book of X I'm thinking I need a sub-shelf for unabashedly, bravely repulsive books, where I would give this novel a place of honor, along with recently read, much admired novels Three Plastic Rooms by Petra Hůlová, Feebleminded by Ariana Harwicz, and Ultraluminous by Katherine Faw. 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.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
July 6, 2019
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 Kassandra and the Wolf by Margarita Karapanou, mixed with The Yellow Wallpaper.

I received a copy of The Book of X from the publisher. It comes out July 16.
Profile Image for fatma.
900 reviews571 followers
February 8, 2020
2.5 stars

the prose here is what didn't work for me. it was trying to be poetic but couldn't quite get there, so what you got as a result was writing that felt clunky and forced more than anything else. the book is also very episodic in terms of the way its told—typically in half-page mini chapters—and so that, too, ended up making the story feel more fragmented and less cohesive as a narrative.

i do appreciate the focus on loneliness and isolation in this story, though. etter definitely didn't sugarcoat her protagonist's experiences of sometimes unbearable solitude and longing.
Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews345 followers
June 26, 2019
Originally published on 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 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.
Profile Image for Megan O'Hara.
179 reviews47 followers
July 31, 2019
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
Profile Image for Cassie (book__gal).
115 reviews42 followers
April 23, 2019
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, The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, 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 🖤
Profile Image for Lori.
1,454 reviews55.8k followers
July 4, 2019
In The Book of X 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 Book of X never ceases to amaze and awe.

As I read this, I couldn't help compare Sarah's style of writing to that of Zachary Schomburg. If you dig this book, you absolutely need to pick up his novel Mammother. These two were made for one another!

Profile Image for Sasha.
237 reviews17 followers
December 31, 2020
Aw man I wish this had been a book club read because I want to hear other people's takes and interpretations! Not that comparisons need to be made but I would put it in a similar category as The Vegetarian, Luster, My Year of Rest and Relaxation. I enjoyed a lot of the surrealist images but didn't know what to make of them most of the time. Also not convinced that the structure was necessary? Really didn't like the bullet point lists of facts. Idk all of the reviews are like this is an incredible rumination on what it is to be a woman!!! And like yeah your mom gives you body shame and men never fail to harm you - these observations didn't rock my world. But I think there are probably some more nuanced points I'm missing from the surrealism of it all. I think maybe I've also read too many super bleak/depressing/lonely woman narratives? Anyhow I will probably be thinking about this one for a while and will likely reread it at some point! Please borrow my copy and then tell me your thoughts!!!
Profile Image for Ronald Morton.
408 reviews153 followers
December 21, 2019
This ended up on a few end of year lists - not a ton, but the few it did were well curated enough that this shot up my TBR list pretty quickly.

I read a bit of this last night, only having maybe 20 minutes of time available before exhaustion overwhelmed me. I was hooked quick, but very shallowly into the actual narrative. I picked it back up tonight and read through to the end in one taut sitting.

This book made my chest hurt and my temples throb for somewhere around 2 hours straight; and I’m fairly certain I mean that as an expression of praise. There is much of this narrative that is alien to me - and that’s not even in reference to the surrealistic passages - where it is speaking to a truth that is not mine, and it hurt to be inside it, even for a small while. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to take from that - I’m not really even sure what I should take from that - but I am always grateful for viscerally affecting reads; and this is a fucking good one.
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
Author 57 books567 followers
December 21, 2019
When a book speaks to existential dread and the deadness inside us caused by late capitalism and the labour expected of us you know you’re reading something special. Add to that complex and weird explorations of womanhood, societal expectations and pain and set it on a meat quarry where raw meat can be ripped from the ground and men are for sale and I’m yours for life. This is for fans of Melissa Broder, Han Kang, Carmen Maria Machado – writers I would joyously classify as weird women writers. Consider this added to my best books of the year list.
Profile Image for Schmimmerock.
57 reviews14 followers
December 28, 2021
God, what a beautiful and devastating little book. I can't begin to tell you the time I had trying to fit this one into Goodreads shelves. I honestly don't think I knew what I was getting into here. I had picked it up and put it back down several times before finally just sitting and finishing it in one uncomfortable stretch. This is a difficult book to read, and by extension difficult to review. I'm not sure I have the words, but if you only read the first paragraph of this review, I do want to be clear that you absolutely should read this book.

We follow Cassie who, like her mother before her, was born with a knot in her stomach. From the start we are privy to Cassie's anguish and shame, to her complicated relationships with her mother and with her womanhood, and her impossible relationship with her body. We have a front row seat to her shame playing out across the pages, across the years, across relationships. It's a rocky road to self-acceptance for every woman, and Cassie's journey is just so visceral that I felt it like an ache everywhere. It was a remembered pain. So many of Cassie's relationships are laced with lack. This is a hungry book. I came out of it feeling emotionally wrecked and in need of a long sleep.

This is a very prosey novel with strong Southern gothic vibes. Etter writes cleanly even though it is nearly all in metaphor—admittedly a bit heavy-handed with it at times—in that she is neither excessive nor careless with her words. Everything she writes is precise. She speaks at length on the relationships many women have (and struggle to have) with their own bodies and bodily autonomy, with the commodification and the impossible standards placed on women's bodies, and how all of these things are things we inherited from the mothers before us. Adjacent and inescapable from those are themes of misogyny and dysmorphia, of the exploration of sexuality, and of such a thorough shame. Further still, there's isolation and loneliness, otherness, anger, and just the sheer struggle that is coming of age as a woman in a world that polices and leaves little room for forgiveness when it comes to femininity.

Do not mistake prosey for pretty. This is not a pretty book. This is an ugly book full of ugly images, grotesque images that make your stomach churn and make your chest ache. It's also full of beautiful writing and suffering and a strength, sometimes loud, sometimes screaming.

I don't think this review did this book justice. The fact is that it'll probably be divisive because it evokes strong feelings in a lot of directions. For me it is disgust and ache, warmth but also horror, and at the heart of it there was the strangest urge to be soft. I can see very easily how this book can be off-putting, how it is perhaps a little too prosey, a little too heavy-handed in the metaphor (after all I did give it 4, not 5 stars), or just straight-up too uncomfortable.

I encourage you to read it anyway.
Profile Image for wynter.
216 reviews
November 12, 2021
The protagonist of Sarah Rose Etter's debut novel is born, like her mother and her mother's mother before her, a knot. As Cassie describes it, "Our abdomens twist in and out just once, our bodies wrapping back into themselves, creating dark caverns, coiled as snakes." The novel takes place in those dark caverns.

Etter's story is intensely creative—she imagines a world where meat is harvested like ore, extracted from quarries in red chunks that leave its harvesters coated in wet blood and the smell of iron. In this world, though, some things are the same. Children are cruel, men are dangerous, beauty standards are arbitrary and impossible. As Cassie grows up in this world, yearning for a body she cannot have and desperate for a surgery that will unknot her, Etter creates a second world, overlaid on the first, and introduced in "visions" that Cassie experiences as escapes. In them, rivers run full with human thighs, women's dresses rain from the sky, jealousy can be removed at the Jealousy Removal Shop. In the second world, Cassie is not raped by the boy she likes and it is possible to purchase someone to sleep next you. In the second world, there are no knots.

Sarah Rose Etter manages to weave surreal fantasy with an emotional intelligence that I haven't encountered elsewhere. Hers is a novel that discusses physical illness and its impact on the psyche and formation of self without once compromising narrative or character development. It's a book I want to push into the minds of everyone I know: Read This. Feel This. Sit with This.

The Book of X is not an uplifting story. It begins in unhappiness, squats like a toad in self-hatred, walks through physical pain and emotional grief, and ends Somehow, it is also a love letter to women. Or, maybe, it's just a love letter to one woman. I can't speak for every woman, but I feel like The Book of X was written for me. 5 stars

Favorite lines
Each day at school, I stare at bodies, memorizing their limbs, their smooth lines.

There is nothing to it, the motions, I go through them each day. I build a new life out of minutes filled with small actions, my distraction techniques: WASHING HAIR SHAVING BODY STARING THROUGH WINDOW EATING MASTURBATING SLEEPING. I repeat and I repeat and I repeat. I inch toward death.

Some days, my mind tricks me into thinking I am still knotted. I run my hand over my abdomen, and a bittersweet river courses through me when I find it flat. I picture the knot constantly, obsessively, as if it is a lost lover. I imagine it with a new life, on a new body, moving through the world without me.
Profile Image for Leili V..
151 reviews2 followers
April 1, 2022
I honestly could not tell you what this book was about. The author must really like raw meat, the way sandwiches look as they slide into people’s mouths whilst eating (I have never thought sandwiches could “slide” into a mouth before 🤦🏼‍♀️, such a strange word to describe the act of masticating a piece of thing stuck between two slices of bread), sweater cardigans, and bleached bird bones that gather like crumpled fingers…
Profile Image for Kim Lockhart.
834 reviews101 followers
February 4, 2022
This is a brilliant fabulist allegory about the ways in which women are taught to keep raw wounded experiences from bleeding though the sanitized mask of who they are and what they're worth. The imagery is surreal, edgy, poetic, and powerful. Women are encouraged to be incredibly self-aware (particularly in how they come across to, and affect others) but also to sublimate emotions, pain in particular, and to accept the dismissal and disapproval of strong feelings. The highly visceral experience is condensed into its potential for unwanted consequences.

This novel will most resonate with readers who enjoy experimental fiction saturated with metaphorical imagery. Etter's writing echoes the carnal style of Melissa Broder and K-Ming Chang, combined with the surreal qualities of Helen Oyeyemi and Karen Russell. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Jessica Sullivan.
519 reviews428 followers
September 6, 2019
In an unknown place, in an unknown time, a girl named Cassie is born with her stomach twisted in the shape of a knot, just like her mother and her mother before her. She is a freak, an outcast, destined to be alone and lonely for her entire life.

The surreality of this novel doesn’t end there. There is other strangeness, too: she lives on the edge of a Meat Quarry, where her father and brother harvest meat to make money for the family. She and her mother spend all day cleaning the house by rubbing lemon halves on the walls. Her mother, intent on helping her “fix” herself as much as possible to attain conventional beauty, forces her to try a new diet which involves sucking on rocks. When she leaves home for the city, her boss at her menial job scolds her for radiating a deep sadness and suggests that they have a training to help her with that.

Although the world in this novel isn’t exactly like ours, it captures the same emptiness of our capitalistic society, the same horror of being a woman. The knot is a stand-in for so many things women experience: depression, anxiety, physical pain, weight issues.

Through it all, Cassie has visions of a softer world than the one she lives in, and these fantasies blur with her mundane day-to-day realities.

The Book of X is grotesque and visceral, haunting and beautiful. It’s a surreal account of trauma and family and grief and coming of age in a woman’s body. There’s a quiet sadness that permeates each page, building to a poignant, fitting denouement. This strange book evoked so many familiar feelings in me. I cannot overstate how much I loved it.

Also worth noting that it has my favorite epigraph of all time: “Are you living in hell? Well, try to make the most of it.” - Carol Rama
Profile Image for Book Clubbed.
146 reviews168 followers
January 14, 2021
A surrealist, glittery membrane that envelops a deeply mundane story. The grotesque elements are unique, and I admire the author's commentary on trauma passed down between generations, the clashing of class and beauty, and some of the reflections on how melancholy manifests itself when true grief arises.

That being said, this is a flat story with flat characters. Cassie is the classic outsider, so consumed with fitting in or receiving affirmation from men that no other elements of her personality are given space to develop. In the second half of the book she becomes obsessed with "nothing" and the plodding pace is only broken up by "visions" that reassert basic desires that are circled about again and again.

The rest of her family falls into familiar stereotypes. The secondary characters are cartoonishly cruel and the exaggeration provides us with no new insights. The ending seems to aim for a particular closing image with no concern for earning it emotionally.

Listen to the full review at: https://bookclubbed.buzzsprout.com/15...
1 review2 followers
March 6, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Darryl Suite.
496 reviews382 followers
November 2, 2021
Surreal, provocative, imaginative, grotesque, sharp. So bloody good.
Profile Image for Derrick Simerly.
39 reviews19 followers
May 11, 2023
Great surrealist pieces of art often feel ‘realer’ than ‘realistic’ pieces of art. It is not be weird for weirdness sake (*looking at you Ari Aster for the garbage fire movie that is Beau is Afraid), this book has weird elements but they are used for earnest and real purpose not for shock.

I usually like more wordy prose, but the sparse prose worked here for me, immensely. I am a huge fan of this writer now. Looking forward to reading Ripe when it comes out later this year, or I’ll try to get an ARC lol.
Profile Image for Lolly K Dandeneau.
1,845 reviews232 followers
June 11, 2019
via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/
"I’M NOT RELIGIOUS, but I damn well prayed”, my mother says, exhaling smoke over the kitchen table. “I rubbed the rosaries raw that you would take after your father.”

Cassie doesn’t take after her father, despite her mother’s desperately raw prayers. Born, like her mother and her mother before her, cursed by a rare inheritance of twisted stomachs in the shape of a knot that they conceal beneath their clothing. Living on a farm in the acres, Cassie’s father’s inheritance, isolated from the rest of town, the one place she doesn’t have to ‘stomach’ the shame of the stares of others. The thought circling my mind through reading was this, there is a time in many a young girls life that her stomach is twisted, in fear, in shame. On the land, their lifeblood is the meat quarry where her father and brother harvest meat from the walls of the canyon. Cassie’s curiosity about the place is a hunger, but like so many other things in the world, it’s not meant for the eyes of females.

Can I just take a moment to point out her mother’s unbearable unhappiness and disappointment about her life, her knot? The prayer and how devastating it truly is, just take away the knot and think on it. A mother that prays for her daughter not to be like her, that self-hatred passed down through generations. The “It’s time to take a look at ourselves with honesty” comment from her mother. Somehow looking at ourselves with honesty is to examine all the ways in which we fail to measure up to the physical perfection the world demands a worthy women has. The impossibility of resembling all those flat-stomached women in magazines… The knot is symbolic, well of course.

Most of Cassie’s school days are spent shrinking, keeping quiet, the only way those who are different can hope to be left alone- the shield of invisibility. Always though, there is trouble, the cruelty of peers, especially when you’re a born freak, a medical curiosity. Her escape are in visions of a happier existence, but the horrors of reality always await her. She studies the other students and there perfectly normal bodies, desperate to be like Sophia. Sophia is a friend, kind of, right? Isn’t she? Is she? As Cassie’s sexuality blooms, her body burning with the same desires as all young girls, she is shamed by her knot, even when a boy she’s had her eyes on secretly seems to return her interest.

The rawness of the meat, her entrance into the quarry like some wild animal, you can almost smell the bloodied mass, the ‘masculinity’ of it haunts the pages. “I like it when you listen to me,” Jared says. Doesn’t he just? Throughout the novel she wants to be loved, she wants to feel normal, to cure the knot because then… then everything will be perfect, she will be worthy of love. Because as things stand, she is only a thing to be used and discarded, a dirty secret desire. She better like whatever she can get. Sound familiar ladies?

Later, she lives her life going through the motions, disappearing, anonymous in the city. Just being a woman in the world and all the rotten luck that entails. She knows better than to ask for anything better than this, until there may be a chance for a cure. From this point on the novel left a lump in my throat, there is a moment where she is feeling great and a man shouts from the street, “What are you smiling about, you ugly bitch?” Someone is always ready to steal your confidence, happiness. Cassie is absolutely shaped by her knot, denigrated by lovers, the ones not too horrified to touch her, apologetic for having that ‘woman’s burden, her knot’. All women have their own knot, it just isn’t physically visible. The Book of X exposes how society sinks it’s fangs into females of all ages, rips them to a bloody pulp and all the while she’s meant to apologize for what is done to her, as if there is a why.

In fact, women do it to each other too, in her co-worker who knows a guy that can fix her. Just fix what the world decides is ugly about you, then you will be of value, you will be over the moon with happiness and find a man to love you. Right. Because the world won’t just find something else to be repulsed by. I think it will hit women in what it doesn’t have to spell out about Cassie navigating her life, like all of us. There are moments as raw as the meat in the quarry. This is a hell of a book! A book too loud to ignore!

Publication Date: July 16, 2019

Two Dollar Radio
Profile Image for Clover Violetta.
58 reviews11 followers
May 31, 2022
Oh gosh, where to begin? This book is a masterpiece in all the most horrifying & relatable ways. Sarah Rose Etter has created a truly unique backdrop upon which this story takes place. Meat quarries, physically visible stomach knots, & more… by the time I closed the book my head was spinning.

This book deals with the experience of womanhood at large. S*xtual assault, body image, societal expectations, & more are touched on through a variety of literary devices & symbolism. Yes this book is a gruesome & uncomfortable read, but I believe necessarily so given that it adds something new to the general discussion in literature.
Profile Image for Erin.
Author 12 books19 followers
July 19, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Becca Younk.
418 reviews37 followers
October 11, 2019
I thought I liked dark, depressing stories, but I guess this one was just too depressing, even for me. The ending seemed to ? Troubling! I also didn't really understand the whole knot situation. Sometimes it seemed visible even when Cassie was clothed, and sometimes it was a shock when people found out. So I don't really know what was going on there. I think Etter has some really beautiful sentences, but overall it didn't work for me.

We read this for Episode 56 for The Bookstore Podcast. Find it wherever you get your podcasts!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Chloe.
275 reviews4 followers
March 21, 2019
This book reads like a work of art and a fever dream all rolled into one; I truly couldn't put it down. Etter paints a surreal and unforgiving portrait of societal treatment towards unruly bodies, so much so, the familiarity will twist your insides and make you ache. The writing is beautiful—rich and intoxicating, marbled with fat, bloody and fierce. It touches on a sense of longing buried deep in every reader.
Profile Image for Daniel DiFranco.
Author 2 books16 followers
July 26, 2019
Etter's prose is beautiful and stunning. The images she creates are so goddamned haunting and visceral—not to mention the insight she offers here on what it is to be a woman. Not that I'll ever truly know, but I certainly have a better understanding/empathy. This is an incredibly original and unique work of art. *5/5 would read again*
Profile Image for Tess.
545 reviews
July 21, 2019
THE BOOK OF X is absolutely devastating. A lyrical novel about a woman, Cassie, born with a protruding knot in her stomach, is surreal, gut-wrenching, and deeply sad. This knot strains her relationship with her mom, who also has it, friends at school, and romantic interests. Many find it disgusting and grotesque, and all Cassie wants is to be rid of it.

Told in short snippets, and in dreams and vision, the story is full and takes you on quite the journey. I loved all the absurd ideas - like a man store or a jealousy removal center. Etter cuts straight into the heart of what it means to be a woman who is full of want, and desire, and heartbreak. The metaphors may come off as heavy handed to some, but it spoke directly to me and broke my heart. All women have felt the way Cassie has, in different ways or at different times. She is a tragic figure, which is perhaps the most heart breaking thing of all.
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121 reviews
August 10, 2020
Oscuro, sangriento, descorazonador. Carne chorreando sangre y traumas enterrados en un nudo. Nauseabundo y precioso.
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