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The Weight of Loss

(Garden of Earthly Bodies)
A novel by

An exquisitely eerie and unsettling speculative novel that grapples with questions of trauma, identity, and the workings of memoryMonths after her sister’s death, Marianne wakes up to find a growth of thick black hairs along her spine. They defy her attempts to remove them, instead proliferating, growing longer. The hairs, Marianne’s doctor tells her, are a reaction to trauma, developed in the wake of the loss of her sister, Marie. Her doctor recommends that Marianne visits Nede, a modern, New Age rehabilitation center in a remote forest in Wales where the patients attend unorthodox therapy sessions and commune with nature.

Yet something strange is happening to Marianne and the other patients at Nede: a metamorphosis of a kind. As the hairs on her back continue to grow, the past starts to entangle itself with the present and the borders of her consciousness threaten to disintegrate. She finds herself drawn back compulsively to the memory of Marie, obsessing over the impulse that drew her sister toward death and splintered her family apart. As Marianne’s memories threaten to overwhelm her, Nede offers her release from this cycle of memory and pain—but only at a terrible price: that of identity itself.    

Haunting, lyrical, and introspective, 
Garden of Earthly Bodies is a startlingly accomplished and original debut about the bond between two sisters, love and its limits, and our inability to ever truly to know the minds of others. With an intense and precise attention to the internal workings of minds and bodies and a disturbing speculative plot, the novel welcomes an assured new voice to the genre.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"Strangely ethereal, yet entirely solid and compelling, this is a unique novel that talks with startling clarity and composure about the in-between spaces, the possibilities of being, and the connection between the living and the dead." - Alice Ash

"The Weight of Loss is a wrenching, viscerally weird novel of grief, longing and mortality. Perceptive, erudite and powerful, I haven't been able to stop thinking about how much I loved it!" - Leon Craig

"Intelligent, addictive, and unsettling. Sally Oliver is a thoughtful, gorgeous writer, and this layered exploration of trauma, family, and selfhood will linger." - Julia Fine

"I love Sally Oliver's writing... I found the whole thing addictive." - Helen Fisher

"Daring, unsettling and original, The Weight of Loss is a debut to savour. Sally Oliver writes with startling intensity." - Victoria Gosling

"The Weight of Loss is a beautifully written and intensely felt novel. Its subject matter - grief and mortality - is timeless, but its method, a startling combination of emotional realism and gothic horror, feels brand new." - Ian McGuire

"An affecting portrait of a young life shaped by grief, set against an unnerving, surreal medical backdrop, somewhere between My Year of Rest and Relaxation and A Cure for Wellness... A remarkable, thought-provoking, vivid book." - Will Wiles

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