Winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize. Mining her own life and those of others, Sarah Viren considers the contingencies of ownership alongside the realities of loss in this debut essay collection.
At times it feels that Viren is offering her readers the empirical results of an experiment in human curiosity that resists all exploitation and relies wholly on generosity ... Viren’s ability to explore feeling so deeply without evincing upset is one of the things that makes the collection so unique. There is no polemic, even against an interview subject who professes the virtues of gay conversion therapy, or against the state of Texas where her Iowa marriage to her wife was 'outright banned.' There is no panic in the prose, no recoil, and yet the reader instinctively feels both ... Mine is the work of a comprehensive and cautious mind, one that has worked to thread its conflicting thoughts together before bringing them to the page, and one that isn’t seeking a discovery so much as a conversation. Viren shows us that trying to own a thing, even a story, even an entire book you’ve written, is often only a way to lose it faster.
Viren gives the reader carefully considered and quietly delivered insights into the world and the people in it. These essays are full of humanity, a reminder to try and understand others, and a call to recognize our impermanence and honor our connections with each other. I’m still reflecting on Viren’s writing and transforming my ideas of ownership.