There is little to say about Sarah Rose Etter’s Tongue Party that hasn’t already said by writers and reviewers leagues more talented than me. This book of ten short stories was the winner in the 2010 Caketrain Chapbook Competition judged by the exquisite artist of the short form, Deb Olin Unferth.
The first thing that struck me about this collection is that it is yet another strong woman’s voice to the growing list of writers of short fiction out there right now. Sarah Rose Etter uses all of the tools and talents at her disposal — her memory, her body, her touch — to pack her small stories with meaning and emotion. The stories are dark, twisted, beautiful and always poetic. From the fantastic and sad Koala Tide to the macabre Love Film, to the painfully tense title story Tongue Party, these are all stories to keep you compelled but slightly off balance. Almost hypnotized, even mesmerized.
There is a young woman who is the vertebrae running through the middle of this book. Sexual authority, childhood naivety and loss are her curses. The heart of this collection is a beating heart, a literal flesh-and-blood heart and not a metaphorical heart that swells with happiness or goes pitter-pat but an actual heart, just underneath the rib cage that pumps blood to the rest of the body. The same type of heart that Sara Rose Etter aims to rip out with every turn of the page.
Praise for Tongue Party:
“Each small story is like sliding in skates over an ice pond — overhead beauty, victorious shouts, still soul, gigantic bravery.”
Deb Olin Unferth
“Sarah Rose Etter’s Tongue Party is astonishing and unexpected and one of the finest books you will read this year. Her stories are beautiful and wildly imaginative and at times disturbing in dark, elegant ways. The women in her stories are strong and they are desperate, often in positions where they have to sacrifice far too much of themselves.”
Roxane Gay, author of Ayiti