Tag Archives: Cut Through the Bone

I Review Amber Spark’s Review at The Lit Pub

3 Jun

Over at The Lit Pub, I’ve reviewed Vouched contributor Amber Sparks’s excellent review of Ethel Rohan’s Cut Through the Bone that she posted here back in March. I ended up digging into my mom’s death a few years ago, and I wonder how much that might come up throughout the month as I delve deeper into Rohan’s book.

Dealing with the grief of loss takes work, dammit, and that’s what Rohan lets us do: work. She doesn’t patronize or coddle us. She trusts us to have the strength and courage necessary to make our own bright discoveries.

I strongly believe how you respond to Cut Through the Bone will reflect how you respond to loss in your own life. If you read these stories and respond with the simple, classic classroom question, “Why is everything we read in this class so sad?” then I’ll be frank with you: you’re either ill-equipped to deal or inexperienced in dealing with grief and loss.

Read the whole thing at TLP.

Rohan knows how to cut, how to kill.

1 Jun

I came this close to typing “SSM” at the beginning of the title for today’s post. But, Short Story Month is over, and today is June 1st, which gives way to another new and exciting development in my life: The Lit Pub.

The past few months, Molly Gaudry, Team TLP, and I have been hard at work getting this endeavor ready to launch. What is it? I’m glad you asked. We are something of a mashup of a Book of the Month club/publicity/online bookstore, focusing solely on indie/small press literature, so essentially a sister of Vouched. Each month, Molly, a guest publisher, and I all feature a favorite title of ours, and spin up some conversation and general enthusiasm about the book. For my inaugural month, I’ve chosen Ethel Rohan’s collection of flash fiction Cut Through the Bone, and it’d be rad if you’d like to follow along with my and other guest poster’s musing throughout June.

There’s been a lot said about Cut Through the Bone already here at Vouched, because it’s just that good. As I was rereading it this past week to reinvigorate myself for TLP’s launch today, this story “How to Kill” ripped at me, left a hole in my belly the size of an abortion.

The supposed gypsy had long, greasy hair, gold hoop earrings peeking from the dirty strands. Her gold arm bangles jingled while she dealt and lifted the cards. A mushroom smell off her breath, and earthy whiff off her skin. She accepted payment in Tequila Sunrises choked with cherries.

At first, she had waved-off the tarot cards for nonsense, but the hag’s grave voice held her mesmerized and dark, probing eyes sent shivers over her. When the woman claimed she could see a baby where there was no longer a baby, she felt snakes wrap around her body and cinch her chest.

Matt gestured with his fork at her coffee mug.

“I can’t eat breakfast, not since….” her voice trailed off.

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, staining himself with tomato ketchup.

She continued: “Not since the morning sickness.”

He looked down at his plate.

Read the full story at Hobart.

And I hope you’ll follow along with The Lit Pub community’s conversation about the book!

What is Lost, What is Gained: Ethel Rohan’s Cut Through the Bone

23 Mar

So I realize I’m a little late to the party on this one.  But I have good reason. Ethel is not only a fabulous and generous person but also a great talent, and I wanted to make sure I did her wonderful debut, Cut Through the Bone (published by Dark Sky Press) justice.  I’ve read this collection of short and very short stories three times since it came out, and each time it has overwhelmed and surprised me just the same.

The stories here vary greatly, but all are centered around themes of family, relationships, love, and loss. I feel that many of the reviews I’ve read of Ethel’s book have focused mostly on the loss. With good reason: the characters that walk through these pages are all missing something, whether it is a leg or breasts or a child or love. They have all suffered a great and scarring rending away of some kind. Yet to me, the real wonder, the bright discovery made within these stories was not so much the losses sustained, but what was gained with some uneasy grace, after the initial shock.

The characters in these stories, mostly women, are missing much. But they are full to overflowing with other compensations; they are possessors of extraordinary strength, of great determination, of forgiveness, of passion, of joy. And it was this I found especially amazing: Ethel’s ability to write characters who inspire, but never in insipid or easy ways. These protagonists are often full of what others lack, such as the wife/daughter in “Under the Scalpel,” who can carry the burden of horrifying disfigurement, where her mother and husband cannot, or Tracy in “On the Loose,” whose fear and loss of control must be the final kick to start her fighting her assailant. Or the massage therapist in the title story, “Cut Through the Bone,” who must overcome her own fear and shame to comfort a veteran who’s lost a leg. The protagonist in “Gone,” too, must forget her own loss to lend the necessary strength to her new lover to see her as she really is, scars and all.

This description may be too pat, may make it seem as though this was one of those books, where the women are strong and the men are weak, where the women are good and the men are all assholes. Not so. Ethel is far more of a complex, nuanced writer than that. True, her men are more often than not in need of help, morally weak, or just the less able of the partnership; but there is not too much bitterness in the extra help the women lend. Instead this seemed to me a deep understanding Ethel has of the weight and balance of love, and the special kind of strength women have always had to possess. Sometimes, too, the women are fragile, are weak, break under their burdens. In “Lifelike,” and in “Make Over,” the women collapse into their own fantasy worlds, unable to cope with life as it is.

Ethel has a style that is all her own, perhaps owed in part to her dual American and Irish lives and influences. Her voice has a lovely musicality, with lines dancing out of the stories and begging to be read. Yet she can also tell a story, with tight urgency, expert pacing, and a deft hand at dialogue that rings so true I barely even noticed it was dialogue.  She can weave fantastic bits into a story so that you almost don’t notice them–until you’re meant to. Until you suddenly start to believe or disbelieve, and then the happenings pop like firecrackers, just when you though you were safe. This is magic as only someone deeply familiar with the most mundane as well as the most fantastic elements of magic could write it. This is writing that only a truly gifted writer could pull off–and she does, with great gusto, every time.

I would highly, highly, highly urge you to pick up a copy of Cut Through the Bone, if you haven’t already. This may be her debut, but Ethel Rohan is clearly going places and you’ll want to say you were there, won’t you? These stories will serve to light the way as you follow her steady climb through the literary atmosphere.