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The Book of X

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UPC: 9781937512811
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Author: Sarah Rose Etter

Twenty-five percent of author proceeds from the sale of The Book of X are donated to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. Learn more here: www.nami.org

The Book of X by Sarah Rose Etter

*Winner of the 2019 Shirley Jackson Awards for Novel
*The Believer Book Awards, 2019: Editors' Longlists in Fiction
*The Northern California ‘Golden Poppy’ Book Awards 2019, Fiction longlist
*2020 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award Longlist
*A Best Book of 2019 —Vulture, Entropy, Buzzfeed, Thrillist

A surreal exploration of one woman’s life and death against a landscape of meat, office desks, and bad men.

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. Twining the drama of the everyday—school-age crushes, paying bills, the sickness of parents—with the surreal—rivers of thighs, men for sale and fields of throats—Cassie’s realities alternate to create a blurred, fantastic world of haunting beauty.


Scroll to bottom for Goodreads reviews.

Winner of the 2019 Shirley Jackson Awards for Novel
The 2019 Shirley Jackson Awards were premiered on Sunday, July 12, 2020, as a pre-recorded ceremony. Watch Sarah Rose Etter win the award here on YouTube! (Jump to minute 16:11.)

"There are very few good reasons to use the word oneiric in a sentence and here is one of them: It’s one of the few English adjectives appropriate to Sarah Rose Etter’s novel about a woman born with a stomach disfigurement who navigates the world (as we all do) with the trepidation and fury and occasional exultation that results from having a disappointing body."
—Molly Young, VultureThe Best Books of 2019

"Best of 2019: Best Fiction Books"

"The Best Books of 2019"
—Arianna Rebolini, Buzzfeed 

"Poignantly represents the ageless trials of womanhood... Etter’s language is grippingly poetic."
—Amanda Silberling, The Kenyon Review

"With lyrical prose and shockingly visceral imagery, Etter has crafted a multi-modal universe; one in which the fictional is artfully woven with the factual; one where familiar details become nuanced in the midst of surrealist scenery; and one in which danger lurks in the silent white spaces of every page."
—Cameron Finch, Craft Literary

"This punchy, eerie novel tells the life story of Cassie, a woman born, like the generations of women in her family before her, with her stomach twisted in the shape of a knot. The book trafficks in a sort of magic realist body horror, and the results are remarkable. This is a world in which meat can be mined from the ground and in quarries, and Cassie's own depressive imaginings—of rivers of thighs and fields of throats—are as unsettling as her environment. It's no light read, filled as it is with tales of trauma and abuse, of bodily self-hatred and self-doubt, but Cassie's memorable voice and Etter's terrific turns of phrase deftly deliver this novel's brutal beauty."
Thrillist, "Best Books of 2019"

"At its heart, Etter’s is a coming-of-age novel about difference, the female body, and the male gaze, but the author’s surreal imagination and laser-precise prose make for an indelible read."
—James Tate Hill, Lit Hub, "5 Small Press Audiobooks To Give As Gifts This Year"

"Sarah Rose Etter’s The Book of X belongs to a literary conversation about the grotesque and surreal. Shaped like a prose sculpture, her debut novel juxtaposes the surrealism of youth with the realities of capitalism; it is the story of being raised in a rural area, and disappearing into a city. Sarah Rose Etter discusses life as loose ends, not something tied up with a pretty bow, and creating a novel not in search of resolve, redemption, or everything becoming better. The Book of X has a fresh vision that makes it a strange book in strange times."
—Michael Silverblatt, Bookworm on KCRW

"Sarah Rose Etter's The Book of X is dizzying and grotesque—and I say that with the utmost love. It's an astute exploration of humanity and the body—specifically the female body—through the lens of young Cassie... Etter has built an eerie, surreal world... and she seduces you into it with dreamy lyricism. You won't want to leave."
—Arianna Rebolini, BuzzFeed News, '29 Summer Books To Get Excited About'

"A psychologically resonant tale of coming of age and the search for identity."
Vol.1 Brooklyn 'July 2019 Book Preview'

“In the utterly unique and remarkable The Book of X, Sarah Rose Etter takes the surreal and expertly shapes it into a portrait that is as beautiful and compelling as it is horrifying and unbearable... 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.”
—Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist

"I loved every page of this gorgeous, grotesque, heartbreaking novel."
—Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties

"The Book of X is a tremendous subversion of the disability as metaphor trope... A fabulist exploration into the reality of living with a chronic illness/invisible disability. No one sees Cassie’s knot if she chooses not to show it, but it impacts every iota of her experience. In a grisly world of meat quarries, fantastical imagery, and ambiguously named settings, Cassie’s condition is not disgusting or dramatized. It is the realest part of this surreal book."
—Lillie Lainoff, Lit Hub
Taking the “Ick” Out of “Sick Lit.” A Reading List: Lillie Lainoff on Representing Chronic Illness in Literature (April 29, 2022)

"Etter writes her weird world with elastic prose, as stripped-down at certain points as it is lyrical in others... a powerful novel."
—Bradley Babendir, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"[Etter] understands the human condition and perfectly put into words the struggle of being a woman in this world. This has been my favorite book of the year by far and has wholly blown me away."
—Christy Rogers, Avid Bookshop (Athens, GA)

"Etter has created that rare beast: an effective, startling poetic novel. Its story is coherent and progressive; Cassie herself is intensely sympathetic. The book is unconventional but engaging, and eminently readable."
—Annette Lapointe, New York Journal of Books

"I definitely enjoyed this book... it's really good and one I'll be thinking about for a while."
—Reading Women Podcast
, Ep. 68.5 | "Most Anticipated Reads of 2019 Pt.2"

"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."
—Jaylynn Korrell, 
Independent Book Review

"Etter's prose-like novel is a taunt, visceral meditation on the female body from childhood to adulthood in the life of Cassie... Etter's writing is so powerful and bracing."
—Lauren Nopenz Fairley, Curious Iguana Bookstore (Frederick, MA)

"What won me over was Etter’s superb prose style, which inevitably must be described in images of meat: muscular, lean, chewy with blood and beauty, rich with a peculiar iron humor."
—Theodore McCombs, Fiction Unbound

"It's amazing... A surreal telling of the female experience... Incredible and original."
—Liberty Hardy, All the Books! Podcast(Ep 217), BookRiot

"The novel slips furtively between the realms of realistic fiction and fantasy... The novel explores themes of isolation and loneliness, female suffering and hunger in a way that feels viscerally painful, but real."
—Jo Chang, Michigan Daily

"Etter’s exquisite writing creates haunting images that stick... The Book of X laments the standards we have allowed to dictate our lives."
—Eunice Chin, Singapore Unbound

"Penned in succinct, poetic prose, Etter’s surreal debut is exactly as grotesque and horrifying as young adulthood."
—Courtney Eathorne, Booklist

"With compellingly strange imagery and sharp, spare writing, Sarah Rose Etter has composed a small masterpiece... one of the best novels of 2019."
—Caleb Masters, Bookmarks Bookstore (Winston-Salem, NC)

"With poetic prose and haunting honesty, The Book of X cuts clean to the tangled heart of femininity, unwinding one woman’s story to reflect a familiar self."
—Danielle Ballantyne, Foreword Reviews

"A haunting and twisted story that will form a knot in your mind. The surreal imagery is tightly tethered to our waking nightmares of misogyny and capitalism and yet Etter finds a space for tenderness within the walls of the meat farm."
—Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop (Athens, GA)

"A relentlessly original look at what it means to exist in a female body."
Kirkus Reviews

A "Literati Insisto" Subscription pick for the month for July 2019.
Literati Bookstore (Ann Arbor, MI)

"Etter’s ultrastylized and surreal debut casts a reflection that, like a carnival mirror, points aptly... at humanity’s defects. Etter’s coming-of-age story builds intrigue as it morphs into a portrait of a young woman adrift."
Publisher's Weekly

"A visceral novel that cuts to what it means to live as a woman under the male gaze in a patriarchal society. The surreal story of Cassie... is both painful and relatable as she attempts to navigate a world that shuns the body she's in, and still fulfill the desires and fix the wounds that burn within her. Etter's prose is both lyrical and brutal—filled with surprising and beautiful imagery—driving the story to its heartbreaking and haunting ending." 
—Kelsey Westenberg, Seminary Co-op/57th Street Books (Chicago, IL)

"Sarah Rose Etter’s language is like meat in your mouth—bloody, salty, sweet. Visions like fever dreams. Imagine being in the body of a woman with a knot in her stomach, as she grapples with the physical and emotional pain that it causes her. The Book of X is a primal scream. It reverberates in your skull long after you read it."
—Leza Cantoral, LitReactor

"Etter’s novel puts the magnifying glass not over a future world, but the one we already wake up to every day."
—Nate Logan, 

"This novel is an incredible example of surrealism in current literary fiction... It is one of the most visceral, mind-bending reading experiences I have had in a very long time."
—Beth Mowbray, 
The Nerd Daily

"The Book of X finds the perfect balance between prose and poetry—the beautiful and grotesque... is a beautiful story of struggle, femaleness, and the pains and disappointments of life."
—Rachel Gonzalez, Paperback Paris

"Etter brings the sensibilities of poetry to her fiction and is unparalleled as a maker of magical realism today. You will not forget her imagery, metaphor, and haunting characterizations."
—Elizabeth Scanlon, Philebrity

"Sarah Rose Etter has... created space for the figurative and the real to run together in juicy and pink-tinged liquid—between the visions and the narrations of Cassie X and between the physical experience of Cassie's tangled body and the world around her. The fact that Etter's done all of this in one book makes her not only one of the most ambitious writers I've read in recent memory but also the most original... This book is gruesome, neurotic, diseased, dismembered, held in the fetal position, and absolutely, absolutely brilliant."
—Afton Montgomery, Tattered Cover Book Store (Denver, CO)

“Insightful and incisive, this book cuts deep into the failing heart of the feminine mystique. Etter is a surgeon.”
—Amelia Gray, author of Isadora and Gutshot

"A haunting meditation on loneliness, loss, and meat, The Book of X is a manual for how to survive in a world that almost offhandedly wants to destroy you. In it the echoes of reality come out deeply weird — but somehow reveal more about the real by being so. A wonderfully strange and personal novel, in which nightmares and daydreams cross-contaminate."
—Brian Evenson, author of The Open CurtainA Collapse of Horses, and The Warren

The Book of X traverses the mundane and the surreal—from grocery lists to blooming meat, menstrual blood to a jealousy removal shop—laying bare the absurdities of womanhood. A truly original writer, Etter continues to push the boundaries of her imagination... and ours.”
—Melissa Broder, author of The Pisces

“Taut, macabre, with wounds electric, The Book of X will take your head off while staring dead-on into your eyes. Move over, Angela Carter, there's a new boss in the Meat Quarry, and she is fearless, relentless, ready to feast.”
—Blake Butler, author of There Is No Year and 300,000,000

“Sarah Rose Etter is a visionary. Perfectly paced, structurally audacious, and endlessly inventive—The Book of X is our new Revelation. Actually it's better than that. Etter's prose digs with emotion and a thousand unforgettable images. They just twist themselves deeper and deeper into your guts. It'll probably take years to cut them out.”
—Scott McClanahan, author of The Sarah Book and Crapalachia


Sarah Rose Etter

Sarah Rose Etter is the author of Tongue Party (Caketrain Press). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The CutElectric LiteratureVICEGuernicaPhiladelphia Weekly, and more. She is the recipient of writing residencies at the Disquiet International Program in Portugal, and the Gullkistan Creative Program in Iceland. She earned her MFA from Rosemont College. She lives in San Francisco.