Review of You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson

You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Janina Matthewson and Jeffrey Cranor book cover and RRPL catalog link

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!

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

These are the books we are adding to our collection this week. Click on the blue text to go to our catalog and place a hold today!

Body of Stars by Laura Maylene Walter – A debut novel by an award-winning short-story writer imagines a dangerously psychic alternate-reality world where the birthmarks, freckles and moles on a woman’s body determine her future role and security.

The Sweet Taste of Muscadines by Pamela Terry – Returning to her Southern hometown in the wake of a tragedy, Lila and her brother uncover details surrounding their domineering mother’s suspicious death, who had been in the care of their third sibling.

Meant to Be by Jude Deveraux – The award-winning author of A Knight in Shining Armor presents a latest historical family saga chronicling the lives and loves of three generations of women in a small Kansas community.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex – A debut non-pseudonymous novel of psychological suspense, based on true events, follows the experiences of three wives on a remote Cornish Coast tower when their lighthouse-keeper husbands go mysteriously missing.

Win by Harlan Coben – A high-suspense follow-up to the best-selling The Boy from the Woods is presented from the viewpoint of Myron Bolitar’s fan-favorite sidekick, Windsor Horne Lockwood III. TV tie-in.

Wild Sign by Patricia Briggs – Tapped by the FBI to investigate the disappearance of an entire small community, mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham become dangerously compelled by a mysterious force in the nearby California mountains.

Not Dark Yet by Peter Robinson – Investigating the murder of a property developer in Yorkshire, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks and his team begin scanning the victim’s security tapes only to discover that a brutal second crime was also captured.

The Energy Paradox: What to Do When Your Get-Up-and-Go Has Got Up and Gone by Steven R. Gundry – The best selling author of The Longevity Paradox expands upon previous discussions about gut, microbiome and mitochondrial health, linking immune malfunctions to the physical and mental symptoms of fatigue while outlining recommendations for bolstering energy and brain stamina.

No Pain, No Gaines: The Good Stuff Doesn’t Come Easy  by Chip Gaines – The star of HGTV’s Fixer Upper shares anecdotal insights into the value of a strong network, explaining how a team of family members, friends and neighbors can become an essential component of personal success.

The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson – Serial Crimes Unit DI Anjelica Henley races to stop a copycat killer and prevent her own death before the ruthless murderer who is being imitated takes matters into his own hands.

Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight by Julia Sweig – A magisterial portrait of Lady Bird Johnson, and a major reevaluation of the profound yet underappreciated impact the First Lady’s political instincts had on LBJ’s presidency.

Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America by Kate Washington – Despite feeling profoundly alone while providing care to her sick husband, a writer discusses how she discovered she was one of millions of exhausted and stressed unpaid caregivers in America and argues that more should be done to support them.

The Performance by Claire Thomas – An unbending professor on the cusp of retirement, a philanthropist with a traumatic past and a theater usher worried for her girlfriend become unexpected companions during a play that is interrupted by a suddenly out of control wildfire.

~Semanur