Ethel RohanYou’re a woman, 140lbs, and a longtime resident of San Francisco. Why’d you write your first novel, THE WEIGHT OF HIM, about a 400lb Irish man?

I was born and raised in Ireland and the seed for this novel was planted during a return visit there, in a bar. It seemed only fitting to set the book in its (and my) place of origin.

The seed was a conversation I overheard about a fat woman, dire ruminations over whether her weight or her grief would kill her first. As though fat is always unhealthy. As though grief can’t be survived. As though we can be killed more than once.

The Weight of Him Book Cover 2017Billy Brennan overdid it again with the fast food. After, he hurried as best he could along the street, fighting the need to stop and recover—he didn’t want to draw any more attention to himself. Strangers looked twice at his massive bulk. He pretended not to notice. Those he knew seemed inclined to stop and chat, but he issued only passing hellos and pressed on. He was in no mood to suffer further condolences and awkward exchanges, all of which set his heart racing.

A woman overtook him on the footpath, walking fast and with force. She must have just come off a foreign holiday or a session of sun beds. Maybe she had slathered herself in that fake lotion. More noticeable than skin the color of mahogany, though, she was sickly thin. Billy had never seen a woman so skinny; her arms and calves could snap like sugar sticks. It seemed impossible she could move that fast, could have the strength to even stand up.

OutofDublinAt age 22, I emigrated from Dublin to San Francisco. In addition to the shiny pink Green Card peeking from my Irish passport, United States law also required me to present to the sour-faced immigration official, his cheeks studded with pores like drill holes, a large X-ray of my lungs—the ghostly snapshot proved I was free of tuberculosis and made of the same stuff as Americans.

In this slim volume of very short stories, Cut Through The Bone (Dark Sky Books) Ethel Rohan presents a series of confrontations, putting us in the middle of those awkward little moments: when your mother stands in the living room her face scarred and disfigured, eyeballs floating in their sockets, rimmed with blood; when the divorce papers are dropped on the table, your husband’s fingernails black with dirt, yellow raincoat wrapped tight around his frame; that moment of violence when you lash out at your only child, your wife gone, this the only flesh left to scream at, to hold, to hug and understand. This is not one long discourse, one epic tale that unfurls your heart, deboning you, leaving you dismembered. No, this is death by a thousand cuts, tiny slices that you hardly notice, here and there a thin ribbon of blood, a bite, a nip, hardly a sting at all, until suddenly this community of intruders has riddled your skin with wounds, a pool of blood gathered at your ankles, death revealed in your pale, translucent skin.