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Can't keep this to myself

Cover of I Keep My Exoskeltons to M
A review of I Keep My Exoskeltons to Myself by Marisa Crane

"The kid is born with two shadows"

In spare, poetic language Marisa Crane draws you in from the first sentence and then holds your heart in their hands until the last page. They explore what it means to parent under the figurative shadows of loss and grief and the literal shadows imposed on their characters by a totalitarian government in this dystopian debut.

The world of the book is set in the not too distant future where the Department of Balance has found a new way to punish criminals. Instead of incarceration, wrongdoers (and much can be found to be wrong) are given an extra shadow so that they're identifiable to the rest of the population. Those with extra shadows are called Shadesters. Shadesters are othered by the government and abused and shunned by most of the rest of the populace. The narrator, Kris, is a Shadester, but one who nevertheless had found a life and family with her wife Beau. When Beau dies giving birth to a child that Kris was never sure she wanted, she's left reeling. And as she struggles to form a new life and care for this child, she knows the day will come when "the kid" will have to be told why she was assigned a second shadow at birth.

The novel is told in the second person as Kris talks to Beau. She tells her everything, with unflinching honesty, the good, the bad, and the ugly, as she fights to make it from one day to the next. But while the themes of grief, a dark dystopian setting, and queer resistance are heavy, Crane balances the heavy with lighter moments of joy and humor and even some hopefulness. Beautifully done. This is a debut you will not want to miss.

Feb 16, 2023