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The Book of X

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,102 ratings  ·  222 reviews
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.
Paperback, 284 pages
Published July 26th 2019 by Two Dollar Radio (first published July 16th 2019)
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Geraldine O'Hagan I can’t explain it, but it is still in the final edition.

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Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Julie W.
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 ...more
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 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 p ...more
The Nerd Daily
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 knotte
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
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 su
Cassie (book__gal)
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 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 rel ...more
Megan O'Hara
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 bei ...more
Ronald Morton
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: by-women
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 fair
Jaclyn Crupi
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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. C ...more
Hannah Colton
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
via my blog:
"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, Cassi
Jessica Sullivan
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 rubbin
Jul 19, 2019 added 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 reali
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Surrealism is not generally my thing. What Sarah Rose Etter accomplishes with this novel through the use of surrealism though is fascinating to me. It feels so much like real life experiences, even with the integration of these bizarre facets. What I appreciated most about the surrealist aspect was that it left those symbols open for interpretation rather than feeling so on-the-nose. The prose-poetry-ish style of this work creates a fast-paced read that moves swiftly but with an attention to lan ...more
Daniel DiFranco
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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*
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves-of-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 ma
Emma Saks
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
my new favorite book. i can’t even form words to review it just read it immediately.
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
The women = meat analogy this book revolves around is spot on.
It also tackles women's health and how it's not taken seriously. So good.
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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.
Juliet Escoria
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is hypnotizing, with flawless writing and wholly original images. I loved the structure, especially the visions. Tender, weird, and beautiful. I recommend not eating any steak while reading this book or ~2 weeks after.
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Step into the extraordinary life of Cassie living with a knot with a hypnotic first person narration, one venturing into surrealism, haunting visions, a coming of age tale to womanhood, her home the Acres, at school, the meat quarry, the country to the big city, with the complexities with kin and friends, pursuing a kind of happiness and self discovery, a cycling life, harvesting and learning of many things, not keeping away away from the rocking horse, rock diet or meat quarry, lemons, a boy, m ...more
J. A.
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
The beauty of this book is not just in the strength of the narrator or the arc of the story, in the surreal landscapes smashed against mundane everyday existence, but in the way Etter loops it all back to us: Our wants, our needs, our suggestibility, our desire to have a life fully in control when life, instead, is as raw and blood-streaked and painful as the Meat Quarry. This is a book to dig into.
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is so good! I read it so fast because I couldn't stop reading it. You really get to feel for the narrator and the world she lives in seems only one or two steps away from reality, yet the metaphors are just inexact enough to be nonobvious and unique when they should be, and otherwise relevant when they should be. This is a book about bodies, appearances, what it's like to live in a body, and a female-sexed body, in the world, capitalism, family, love, loss, depression, and the strange ...more
Roman Colombo
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a mind-bending delight. It's abstract, though blunt, surreal, though painfully blunt, and beautiful, though grotesque. It's paced so well, I found myself reading and reading throughout the night. It's also one of those books that will be in your head for weeks. Without a doubt one of the best new books of the year.
tyler  Gutierrez
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve read many books but I’ve never read a book quite like this. Give it a try if you’re looking for something a little weird and very surreal.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
I went to grad school in Arizona with a poet who once summed up Franz Kafka’s short story, “The Metamorphosis,” in the following manner: “If you think you’re a bug, you’re a bug.”

Sarah Rose Etter’s debut novel, The Book of X (Two Dollar Radio), takes this idea a step forward.

Cassie, the novel’s protagonist, was born with an unusual defect: The flesh of her stomach is twisted into a disfiguring knot. Although this abnormality was passed down from her mother, whose own mother also suffered from
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
As good as it gets for a recently published literary fiction. First of all, hats off to Two Dollar Radio who've made a book that looks and feels nice in my hands. I felt like I was reading a notebook. I'm not sure I can say anything different from what I expect most reviews here say about how it is to live in a female body. One thing that makes the book powerful for me was the impact of one sentence that one man says to her near the end. Something like 'that doesn't bother me at all'. It shows h ...more
Jeff Raymond
This is a pretty strange book, filled with a lot of metaphor and a lot of engaging writing. Did I like it? I think so. Does it work? I'm not as sure. But I suppose this is a book I'll be thinking about for a really long time, which might be the point all along.
Becca Younk
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: podcast
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Sarah Rose Etter is the author of Tongue Party, a short fiction collection, and The Book of X, her debute novel. The Book of X was selected as a Best Book of 2019 by Buzzfeed, Thrillist, Vulture, and more, and was long-listed for 2020 The Believer Book Award and the 2020 California Independent Bookseller Alliance’s Golden Poppy Award.

Her fiction, interviews, and essays have appeared or are forthco

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Lori Hettler is the founder and moderator of The Next Best Book Club, one of the most popular groups on Goodreads, and has been a reader and...
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“He moves his body around mine and presses, wraps his arms and one leg around me, buries his face into the back of my neck.

I exhale and go another type of soft, a softness unrecorded before, I sink back into him, rest my body on his thighs, chest, more. He holds tighter, tighter, and then the loneliness gets small, smaller, smallest until it is a pinprick, an inverse star, a dust.”
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