Reviews for You feel it just below the ribs

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From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

You Feel It Just below the Ribs is a fictional autobiography by Dr. Miriam Gregory, a young woman in an alternative history who survives the Great Reckoning and goes on to develop a pioneering technique called the Watercolor Quiet, which can erase children’s traumatic memories. But when her technique is co-opted by rebuilding governments in an attempt to rid the world of nationalism and generational memory, Miri begins to fear the consequences. This novel from the writers of the podcast Within the Wires can be excessively slow-paced, but, overall, it is a compelling story of the potential cost of achieving everlasting "peace." The footnotes are a brilliant touch: they expose the ways that society has been irreparably changed, as the writers cannot understand Miri’s emotion, often editing down her most painful moments "for clarity." They frame Miri as an unreliable conspiracy theorist, yet the reader can see a different story unfold. It is a thought-provoking, haunting story about the sacrifices a society is willing to make to ensure its survival.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A recovered manuscript details the establishment of the New Society after the ruinous Great Reckoning almost ends mankind—but does it describe a triumphant return to peace and equity or the desecration of that which makes us most human? Dr. Miriam Gregory was a visionary psychologist whose research into the link between memory and trauma led to some of the foundational tenants of the New Society, the system of political and social governance that sprang up in the shambles left behind by the Great Reckoning. In 1977, she failed to return home from work and was not heard from again until her body was discovered in Stockholm in 1996. Hidden under the floorboards of Dr. Gregory’s attic bedsit was a manuscript which, in spite of its incendiary nature, has been made available to a select few well-vetted readers in the name of free speech, the very manuscript the reader now holds in their hands. Dr. Gregory details her early life: the loss of her family, her adoption into a gang of similarly orphaned children, her specious arrest for treason, and her friendship with the ethereal Elsa. It is from Elsa that Dr. Gregory learns to enter a meditative trance state that allows the girls to remove themselves from the harsh environment of the Belgian prison in which they are both incarcerated. After Elsa’s presumed death in a prison riot, Dr. Gregory evolves the technique from meditation into a tool that can actually alter a subject’s relationship to the traumatic memories they carry within them. As her proficiency grows, however, Dr. Gregory’s research is put to uses she never intended. Eventually, her psychological treatments become the foundational tool for enacting the Age Ten Protocols, wherein children are separated from their families and conditioned to forget their emotional ties in an effort to eradicate all traces of the kind of tribal or national loyalties responsible for the Great Reckoning. Horrified by the application of her process, Dr. Gregory sets out to right some of the wrongs she has unwittingly helped create. The book as a whole fits into the universe of the authors' serial podcast Within the Wires, which also takes its form from the idea of found communication. Unsurprisingly, that sense of collaborative creation carries over, both in how Dr. Gregory’s memories intersect and sometimes refute the details of her history and in the technique of liberally footnoting the text with asides from fact-checkers and critics who warn the reader of the danger of taking Dr. Gregory’s word as law. The result is a fascinating layering of fiction, invention, satire, and social critique which explores much more than just the backstory of an alternative history. A metatextual inquiry into the roots of human conflict that keeps its thread of tension taut throughout. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
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Cranor (cocreator of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale) and Matthewson (Of Things Gone Astray) present a sprawling tale of survival, detachment, and sacrifice set in the alternate 20th-century world of their Within the Wires podcast. Presented as the autobiography of Dr. Miriam Gregory, the story describes how Miriam weathered the Great Reckoning, a decades-long war that touched her childhood with trauma and tragedy. A meditative process helps her to detach from her painful experiences, and her later work as a psychologist allows her to adapt the practice on behalf of the New Society, which springs up in the war’s wake. The New Society adopts Miriam’s technique to prevent tribalism, nationalism, and future war—but it requires the total isolation of individuals, even from nuclear family, and the results of its implementation are devastating. Though Miriam’s internal monologue sometimes meanders, the authors succeed in crafting a fascinatingly complex narrator, and the footnotes commenting on her work—and calling it into question—are equally layered. Throughout, the novel raises the question of what humanity should sacrifice to avoid future conflict, and whether those sacrifices are worth it. Readers who enjoy dystopian tales and unreliable narrators will find much to dissect in this haunting, heart-wrenching novel. (Nov.)