Miriam grows up during the Great Reckoning, an apocalyptic war that destroys nations, displaces thousands of people, and kills millions more. Later, when civilization slowly begins to function again, the nascent New Society government concludes that tribal loyalties, including familial bonds, are to blame for the Great Reckoning. As an adult, Miriam perfects a technique that helps children to forget traumatic memories, and the New Society uses it in ways she never intended to create the Age Ten Protocols. The government takes babies from their families and raises them in child care centers, then erases those memories when they turn ten years old, destroying those dangerous family ties. Now an elderly woman, Miriam writes a memoir of her extraordinary life in the new novel You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Janina Matthewson and Jeffrey Cranor.
This book is a companion novel to Within the Wires, an audio drama podcast written by one of the writers of Welcome to Night Vale, Jeffrey Cranor, and writer and voice actor Janina Matthewson. Longtime listeners of Within the Wires will certainly find breadcrumbs of new information to chew over, as this novel provides much backstory to the world of the podcast. As a standalone novel, it is a stark dystopia that may confuse readers not aware of its extensive audio drama roots. I have listened to Within the Wires since its first episode, and as I read, I found myself preferring the podcast and the intimacy with which we get to know the characters. In this novel, the narrator is carefully writing her own memoirs in a New Society that will not publish anything too radical, so there is a substantial distance between Miriam and the reader that means we never really get to know her as a person.
However, the authors explore intriguing philosophical questions throughout the course of the novel: in a post-apocalyptic society, what lengths are too far to go in trying to prevent another worldwide war? Are family ties and tribalism truly the root of all war and conflict? Is it ethical – and if not ethical, then necessary – to erase memories and destroy families in the pursuit of peace? With Miriam as our unreliable narrator versus the New Society’s narrative, who is telling the truth? Fans of Within the Wires and new readers who are intrigued by this unique concept for a dystopian novel should check this one out. If you like the book, make sure to listen to the podcast in your favorite podcast app!
Release date: December 7, 2021
Thanks to NetGalley for the Advance Reader Copy!
Each week a staff member will share a glimpse into their reading shelf in hopes that you will discover that next great read. This week, we get a peek at a “listening” shelf. Enjoy!
Ooo! What happened? Somewhere over the past few weeks, I’ve realized my attention span has gotten very short. I’m guessing you know exactly what I’m talking about, right? It’s a good thing I’m already a fan of making lists -and checking items off the list. Now I need to figure out how to remember where I put my most current list… heh heh. (I also need to remember to recycle that finished list-geez,)
So maybe you’re on the same page as I am (book humor on purpose!) and you’d like to listen to an entertaining book or podcast right now? Great! May I suggest the following podcasts: Stuff You Should Know-covering a wide variety of topics, the length varies by episode, Flash Forward -possible futures based on current ideas, Imaginary Worlds-mostly SF topics but also plenty of general appeal, or NPR’s Life Kit -nicely compact discussions of truly helpful tips for navigating everyday life. May I suggest an older nonfiction book: Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt -I learned so much about European Starlings and Mozart (of course?) plus musical moments were included in the audio book! And how about an older mystery/dark comedy series: Izzy Spellman Series starting with The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz -you too might fall a little in love with this seriously loving and dysfunctional family like so many of us have!
Or if you want to fall down a rabbit hole of what? who knew? I need to try that! nope. Yes! May I suggest checking out #recipes on TikTok? (If you can figure out a good way to limit your time on this one -please send that good tip my way?!)
And please, don’t forget to be kind to yourself, okay?
What is your favorite book you have read this year and why is it your favorite?
I think my favorite book is always the next book I plan to read BUT if you’re looking for a smart mystery/thriller, I’d suggest Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman.
What book are you looking forward to reading next?
The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz
What are you you currently watching?
Making the Cut with Tim and Heidi, restarting Expanse, and all sorts of YouTube!
What are you listening to…music, podcasts?
I subscribe to a whole bunch of podcasts but a few favorites are: Flash Forward, Stuff You Should Know, 99% Invisible, Imaginary Worlds, and NPR Life Kit.
What are you doing to occupy your time during these uncertain times?
There’s still a lot of my job I can do from home, I’m putting more time into meal planning (finally!) and enjoying a wide-range of comfort carbs, watching more movies and TV shows than I have in a long while, staying connected to physically distant family and friends, and finishing a half-done needlepoint canvas before I pick up a new project (to finish!)…. I’m guessing this list will sound pretty familiar to people, right?
We’re firmly into Spring now and the sun is coming out so much more often -it’s fabulous! Although Fall will always be my favorite season (warm days/crisp evening air, s’mores, the leaves as they turn beautiful colors), but also very happy to have the sunshine and open windows we can enjoy now. (Downside? Pollen. so. much. pollen. sigh…)
So this week maybe we’ll have the chance to be outside a little more -maybe listening to an audiobook like Crazy Rich Asians or podcast like Flash Forward while taking a walk, or calling a friend while we sit in the sun. Doesn’t that sound nice? (I might add a scoop of ice cream in there -cone or bowl- but that’s me ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )
Once you’re in for the evening and you’re looking for something to watch, I can say Victorian Slum House, the 1900s on hoopla is a series worth spending some quality time with! I’ve really enjoyed the previous series PBS has created, from Frontier House to The 1940s House, sending everyday modern people back in time to experience the daily life of that time period. As these volunteers get caught up in their new world so do viewers and soon it feels like we’re all in it together… (and reminds me how lucky I am to live in a time and place where indoor plumbing is the norm)!
Today, while I continue some serious Spring cleaning, I’m going to start listening to Wisdom From a Humble Jellyfish by Rani Shah and update you my progress next week!
Be kind to yourself and enjoy that extra Vitamin D shining down!