BOOK OF THE DEAD
Broken Sleep Books, May 2025
‘All things exist . . . real or imagined.’
'A major arcana of death in America, shot through with bullets, black humour and an assassin-artist’s eye for detail of place and thought. Kirsten Norrie has crafted an ocean-crossing, stricture-defying masterpiece: flamboyant, bloody, piercing, rapturous, brutal, unforgettable.
Everything here - embalmers' techniques, arcane conjurors’ potions, the flora and fauna of the old West, Sioux elders pondering the mortsafes of dank Aberdeen - feels drawn from the life: from 'freight carts stood like vertebrae' on a rough plain under the dawn, to its darkest scene, a prose Velázquez painting of a sabbat of Mexicana.
The many deaths in An American Book of the Dead are not trick-scares put there to punctuate the narrative. Mortality here is the centrepiece, death the dark polestar, the relentless attraction of the story: death of the body, of decency, of injustice, set amid the most exceptionally alive descriptions of the fleshy and psychic equipages of life… The taste of planets in snowflakes, the notion of a gap in time between life and death, of time thickening between two minds watching each other, of the tragedies of wolves and men. Stalked by the story of a scalping from the Kansas frontier to the Scottish Highlands, and weaving her way to a riveting, layered conclusion, Norrie takes exhilarating risk with the novel form. Her characters speak in interruption of each other's thoughts, which are our thoughts, which are our dreams. This haunted troupe looks up at us: they live burningly towards us, out from this monumental, opulent book of the dead.' – Damian Le Bas, author of 'The Stopping Places: A Journey Through Gypsy Britain', Chatto & Windus, 2018.
'Norrie is a visionary writer, whose extraordinary first novel - An American Book of the Dead - draws the reader on an intrepid dance through human history, the dark subject-matter illuminated by an imagination ablaze. Haunted by the voices of Wild West ghosts who eat at your heart, mind and table, An American Book of the Dead drastically revivifies the Western in form and scope.' – Nancy Campbell, author of 'The Library of Ice', Simon & Schuster, 2018 and 'Fifty Words for Snow' (Waterstone's Book of the Month, November 2021) Elliott & Thomson, 202 .