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Severance

Selection

Ta Chin, Chinese wife, beheaded by her husband, 1838

straight and whole are my feet I would rise and run as I have loved for many winkings of the moon to run with my brothers but I press my feet side by side and wiggle my toes this last time and whisper to them goodbye I know what is before me my mother in the courtyard singing prayers to Kuan Yin the goddess of mercy, not to spare me a life of pain but to wither my feet to perfection, the mercy of the golden lotus, the mercy of a wealthy man to keep me, I tremble I am ready to weep but for these tiny stones of anger Kuan Yin has placed in the corners of my eyes even as the footbinder puts the soaking tub before me that first night even as my husband trembles before me in the torch light trembling always from the opium but this night he trembles from what he believes about the brushing of my sleeve by a man he himself brought to our house and my mother sings and my toes are seized and folded hard under and the wrappings wind and wind and squeeze and my arch cracks and I see Buddha in heaven sitting on his lotus but it is my naked foot the golden lotus he sits upon and hands push me down my neck made bare and I cry please, before my head cut off my feet

Reviews

2006

2006

Severance is a dazzling tour of history and humanity as told by those who have lost their heads. From the moment of death, we are given sixty-two perfect testaments to the joys of being alive. Robert Olen Butler has once again proven himself to be one of the most profoundly creative voices in fiction today.”

– Ann Patchett

“In concept, Severance is brilliant. In execution, it’s even better-beautiful, hilarious, horrifying, and humane.”

– Dave Eggers

“With Severance, Butler has one-upped himself… he has brought the dead back to life, through the limitless will of his imagination.”

The New York Times

“Glorious… a deeply empathic experience for both writer and reader.”

Los Angeles Times

“Commanding and ingenious… not only unique, but also unforgettable.”

Booklist (starred review)

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