You Feel It Just Below the Ribs: A Novel (Paperback)
December 2021 Indie Next List
“You Feel It Just Below the Ribs is a very interesting take on the dystopian alternate future trope. I highly recommend it for fans who like post-societal reads that focus more on the psychological impacts rather than any gore or horror.”
— Kaycee Arrowood, Country Bookshelf, Bozeman, MT
A haunting, provocative novel, You Feel It Just Below the Ribs is a fictional autobiography in an alternate twentieth century that chronicles one woman’s unusual life, including the price she pays to survive and the cost her choices hold for the society she is trying to save.
Born at the end of the old world, Miriam grows up during The Great Reckoning, a sprawling, decades-long war that nearly decimates humanity and strips her of friends and family. Devastated by grief and loneliness, she emotionally exiles herself, avoiding relationships or allegiances, and throws herself into her work—disengagement that serves her when the war finally ends, and The New Society arises.
To ensure a lasting peace, The New Society forbids anything that may cause tribal loyalties, including traditional families. Suddenly, everyone must live as Miriam has chosen to—disconnected and unattached. A researcher at heart, Miriam becomes involved in implementing this detachment process. She does not know it is the beginning of a darkly sinister program that will transform this new world and the lives of everyone in it. Eventually, the harmful effects of her research become too much for Miriam, and she devises a secret plan to destroy the system from within, endangering her own life.
But is her “confession” honest—or is it a fabrication riddled with lies meant to conceal the truth?
A jarring and uncanny tale of loss, trauma, and the power of human connection and deception, You Feel It Just Below the Ribs is a portrait of a disturbing alternate world eerily within reach, and an examination of the difficult choices we must make to survive in it.
About the Author
Jeffrey Cranor cowrites the Welcome to Night Vale and Within the Wires podcasts. He also cocreates theater and dance pieces with choreographer/wife Jillian Sweeney. They live in New York.
Janina Matthewson is the author of the novel Of Things Gone Astray and the novella The Understanding of Women. She cowrites Within the Wires, and has also written for Murmurs, The Cipher, and Passenger List. Originally from New Zealand, she now lives in London.
“This cleverly structured puzzle of a book is both tense intellectual thriller and elegant dystopian fantasy, blending fiction and history with terrifying clarity and haunting realism.”
— Simon Van Booy, author of Night Came With Many Stars
“You Feel It Just Below the Ribs” mirrors the methodology of “Within the Wires,” explicitly reminding the audience of its medium while destabilizing the story through insertions and insinuations of what exists beyond it. ….the book is perfectly comprehensible as a stand-alone project, and full of moving insight into loss, grief and family.”
— The New York Times
"You Feel It Just Below The Ribs is thought-provoking, more than a little melancholy, and ultimately one of the most intriguing novels I’ve read this year. What a quietly wonderful book."
“You Feel It Just Below the Ribs. . . can be read as multiple narratives, a literary choose-your-own-adventure: as a meditation on the nature of alternate histories, as a provocative account of the horrors linked to psychiatry, as a character study of a woman who has made terrible choices, even as a narrative about the ethical and political questions to consider as part of scientific research.”
— Chicago Review of Books
“Readers who enjoy dystopian tales and unreliable narrators will find much to dissect in this haunting, heart-wrenching novel.”
— Publishers Weekly
"A compelling story of the potential cost of achieving everlasting "peace." . . . A thought-provoking, haunting story about the sacrifices a society is willing to make to ensure its survival."
“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 . . . 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.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Co-creators of the podcast Within The Wires, Cranor and Matthewson have set the foundation for a radical take on balancing the desires & needs of the individual against that of the world.”
— WRAL TV
"You Feel it Just Below the Ribs is a fantastic read for anyone that is a fan of dystopian alternate realities and possibly unreliable narrators. The novel makes readers question everything and keeps you on your toes."
— The Maneater