I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself

Catapult Jan. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9781646221295. $27. FICTION/SCIENCE FICTION
DEBUT Crane’s speculative dystopian novel is told at the intimate level. A future United States is led by a totalitarian leader who has set up the Department of Balance as an alternative to incarceration for those who have committed a crime (intentionally or not). The Department gives wrongdoers an extra shadow that will never go away. Those with extra shadows—one, two, three, or more—are othered by the government. They pay more for things, get less access, and are denigrated as “Shadesters” by the rest of the populace. Kris is a Shadester who has just lost her wife in childbirth. That child, a daughter is assigned an extra shadow at birth, because she “killed” her birth mother. The deeply grieving Kris has to navigate her new normal as a widowed mother of a child she wasn’t sure she wanted, to whom she’ll eventually have to explain why and how her extra shadow exists—all without the love of her life by her side.
VERDICT The beautiful, spare narration from Kris as she struggles with grief and motherhood delivers a deep emotional punch, lightened by dry humor and the hope in human connection. For fans of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Veronica Roth’s Poster Girl.
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