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Ethel Rohan

Raised in Ireland, Ethel Rohan now lives San Francisco. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Potomac Review, and Los Angeles Review among many others. Cut Through the Bone was Long Listed as a notable collection by the 2010 Story Prize.


“Rohan’s stories are, more than anything else, about loss . . . and about the odd, endearing, and desperate ways that people fill the void or ignore it.”


“These stories create a sense of loss in the reader, an ache, but thankfully they avoid dull cynicism. Instead, they bear witness to the difficulty of living for oneself while sacrificing for others."

– Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine

“In this unforgettable collection, Rohan reveals her mastery in finding the danger of ordinary objects, the way they come alive when her characters hold them in their hands.”

– Kevin Wilson, author of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth

"This is a marvelous collection, filled with moments that startle and shatter."

– Laura van den Berg, author of What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us

" . . . beautiful and inventive, tender and absurd, quirky and heartbreaking, dark and strange and devastating."

– Michael Kimball, author of Dear Everybody,

"Ethel Rohan’s women, despite their wounds, are strong of spirit."

– William Walsh, author of Pathologies

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Cut Through the Bone

Cut Through the Bone: And So It Begins


Where to begin? There’s so much I need to tell you, so much I need you to know. My first post, first impression. I want you to like me. I want you to like this book I like: Cut Through the Bone by Ethel Rohan. I want you to like what we are doing here at The Lit Pub. This is all new to us. This is all new to you. We are on the same page. Let’s begin.


I’m Chris Newgent, and this is my little corner of The Lit Pub. I wish I could offer you a drink, maybe some snacks: chips, peanuts, party mix, what have you. I can offer you this book by Ethel Rohan, Cut Through the Bone, published by Dark Sky Books. See, The Lit Pub is something of a car crash of online bookstore/online publicity/Book of the Month club.

Each month, we’re featuring 1 of our favorite books; we’re talking about it for a month; we’re encouraging you to talk about it with us. If you’ve read it already, if you already own it, that’s fantastic! I hope you stick around and talk to us about how much you loved it (or didn’t, okay; that makes for interesting conversation, too, just please be respectful). Ethel is a really awesome, gracious person, and there’s a good chance you’ll see her around in the comments at some point, too.

If you don’t own it and you think, “This conversation is compelling. I’d like to read this book,” then you’re in luck! You can buy it from us! (Technically, there are a lot of places you can buy it, but if you like what we’re trying to accomplish here, it’d be rad to have your support through your purchase.)

A quick “about this book”:

You probably want to know a bit about this book, about what we’ll be talking about this month, about why you should be interested.

Cut Through the Bone is a collection of 30 short stories about loss, about absence and wanting, about quiet grief bubbling to the surface. In “How to Kill,” Ann feels the hollowness of an intentionally empty belly. “Gone” reads like a retelling of Robert Hass’s classic “A Story About the Body,” in which a woman reflects on the loss of her breasts to cancer, and bares herself to an artist attracted to a body she knows he does not understand.

But of course, Rohan’s expert storytelling doesn’t leave the reader with mere loss without the realization of what’s gained. Tracy’s humiliation in “On the Loose” gives way to finding it in herself to fight, to breathe, breath as an act of truly living. Similarly, in the titular story, massage therapist Joyce is asked to massage an amputee’s phantom limb, “her heart knocking against her ribcage, and [she] reminded herself to breathe.”

Throughout Cut Through the Bone, Rohan explores what it is to find life and hope and renewed breath through loss, which is perhaps why this book affects me so. I tend to get pretty personal in my blogging, allowing myself to reflect on personal experience in reviewing and expounding. So if you stick around here, you’ll learn about some of the loss I’ve found hope and breath and life through, you’ll learn why a book like Cut gets straight into the very marrow of me.

I hope you stick around.

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  1. Molly Gaudry said on 06/01/11 at 9:35 am Reply

    I can’t wait to follow this column, Chris! What a lovely, tenderly written post.


  2. Chris Newgent said on 06/01/11 at 10:41 am Reply

    Thanks, Molly! It’s going to be a good month here.


  3. Michael Filippone said on 06/01/11 at 10:55 am Reply

    I just finished this book the other day and I absolutely LOVED it. I’m so happy to see it featured here and getting the attention it deserves.


    Chris Newgent said on 06/01/11 at 4:30 pm

    It really is a great read. I’ve gone through it 3 times now to get ready for this month, and keep finding new things with each pass.

  4. Andy Roe said on 06/01/11 at 1:51 pm Reply

    Great post, Chris. It’s so nice to see Ethel’s book getting the attention it deserves. Yesterday I saw that it got shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Congrats, Ethel!


    Chris Newgent said on 06/01/11 at 4:29 pm

    Ah! I hadn’t heard about that yet! That’s fantastic. I’ll have to make mention of that at some point this month.

  5. Mike Bushnell said on 06/01/11 at 2:34 pm Reply

    Tender is the right word. You may not have brought snacks to meet with, but I feel like you brought a campfire cause of all that warmth, Chris.


    Chris Newgent said on 06/01/11 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks, Mike. Maybe we can make s’mores?

  6. Andrew Dugas said on 06/01/11 at 5:54 pm Reply

    I picked this up at a reading in SF. Signed by ER herself. Loving it, too.


    Chris Newgent said on 06/02/11 at 10:23 am

    Awesome, Andrew! Did you know Ethel and her work before the reading?

    Hope you join in the discussion this month!

  7. Dawn. said on 06/01/11 at 9:09 pm Reply

    Great post, Chris. I loved this book. 🙂


    Chris Newgent said on 06/02/11 at 10:22 am

    Thanks, Dawn. Hope you stick around to join in the conversation about it!

  8. Jensen said on 06/02/11 at 11:03 am Reply

    This is a great post, Chris, about a fantastic book! It’s so great to see this site up today. Huge congrats to you and Molly! Can’t wait to see where you guys take this thing.


    The Lit Pub said on 06/02/11 at 12:18 pm

    Jensen – Thank you so much for becoming a part of our community. Your comment has been randomly selected to receive The Lit Pub prize pack.

    Please email mike[at]thelitpub.com for more information and to claim your prize!

    The Lit Pub is powered by voices like yours, thanks again for stopping by and joining in.

    Your friendly neighborhood giveaway,
    The Lit Pub

    Chris Newgent said on 06/02/11 at 3:12 pm

    Appreciate the kind words, Jensen! Hope you stick around!

  9. Ethel Rohan said on 06/02/11 at 12:18 pm Reply

    Hello Chris,

    This is a wonderful post, thank you, and I’m somewhat at a loss to adequately respond. First, congratulations to you, Molly, Erika, and everyone involved in The Lit Pub. I wish you all every success and reward.

    It’s an incredible honor to be one of the three featured writers at The Lit Pub’s launch and I hope you know how deeply grateful and humbled I feel. You, through Vouched Books and The Lit Pub, are getting Cut Through the Bone to more and more readers and the collection continues to gain momentum and touch lives and that for me is the ultimate reward.

    I appreciate so many of your responses and insights here, especially your comments on “Gone”

    “… in which a woman reflects on the loss of her breasts to cancer, and bares herself to an artist attracted to a body she knows he does not understand.”

    How beautifully said, ” … a body she knows he does not understand.” Thank you.

    I also greatly appreciate your closing paragraph which begins, “Throughout Cut Through the Bone, Rohan explores what it is to find life and hope and renewed breath through loss, which is perhaps why this book affects me so.”

    So much of the feedback I’ve received on the collection centers on the stories’ darkness and intensity and I’m so grateful and encouraged here by your words, ” … Rohan explores what it is to find life and hope and renewed breath through loss.” I might just have to steal this excellent insight whenever I discuss the collection at readings etc. Thanks again, Chris!

    Lastly, I admire and appreciate your honesty and vulnerability in your closing words. To varying degrees, we have all suffered loss and we have all had to learn to go on despite loss and grief. I look forward to the rest of this month at The Lit Pub, and everything that follows thereafter. Please know that I’m available to you and all visitors here to The Lit Pub and am happy to answer questions and join in discussions.

    As for all the support and generous comments above … well this just might turn into a bad, blubbering Oscar-like acceptance speech. Let me just say that I’m mindful once again of what an incredible community of extraordinary writers, editors, artists and readers we have. I feel blessed. Thank you.


    Chris Newgent said on 06/02/11 at 3:28 pm


    Sheesh and thank you. By all means, you’re welcome to any of my words for anything you’d like to do with them–blurbs, readings, whatever.

    Thanks for being such a gracious and appreciative person, and for writing the stories in Cut. I’m looking forward to delving into it more this month.

  10. Ethel Rohan said on 06/02/11 at 2:16 pm Reply

    Oh and I should clarify, Andy, that Cut Through the Bone is on the Frank O’Connor Longlist. If it makes the shortlist it’s cocktails for everyone on me! Cheers.


  11. dano said on 06/05/11 at 2:47 pm Reply

    thank you Christopher. you’ve once again recommended a wonderful book.


    Chris Newgent said on 06/06/11 at 9:48 am

    Glad you like it so much, Dano! Hope you stick around and toss around some thoughts this month!

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