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.– The Book of X
Summary and Thoughts
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.
The Book of X is a tight story of well-executed minimalist prose, and despite its detached third-person voice and sparse details, Cassie’s story: her troubles, desires, and decisions, ring with sharp emotionality. Etter’s skill in rendering a brutal and barren communal landscape with character reminiscent of our own world is evident — the story speaking to how women’s bodies are perceived, treated, and spoken about and the consequences these actions have on those targeted. Still, Etter’s parallels are cleverly done, not preachy and precisely explored to advance the narrative. The weaving of Cassie’s reality and her surreal “visions” of a slightly brighter alternative reality also added a level of enjoyable distortion (I particularly enjoyed the haunting and saddening “man store” segment). Though I did feel that the ending was a bit rushed, with the second half of the book lagging a bit more than the first, The Book of X is such a unique and thought-provoking read I would not hesitate to recommend it to others.
For Those Who Enjoyed
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang
- Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapps
- The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
- The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck