It is always difficult to pick up a book written by someone that you have talked with many time, heard read in various settings, and become friends with. You feel you know what will lie between the covers, and at times it seems like you don't experience the work in the same way. When I received the debut collection from Mary Hamilton, We Know What We Are (Rose Metal Press), I worried that knowing Mary may get in the way of reading the collection and I could not have been more mistaken. This collection transports you to another time and place, and perhaps another world. It is nothing like what I had anticipated, and it is so much more.
The collection has several reoccurring themes and one glaring one is in the titling of the stories. When you look at the Table of Contents you will find several "Odes to Bull Shannon" and several pieces that have titles that begin with "Me and Theodore". However, these stories are all very different, and hold barely any ties to their titles. The themes found with the stories deal with struggle, loss, death, drowning, suicide, and other pleasant topic. Yet, they are told in such a way that you don't realize the grim nature of the story until it is too late. She slightly distorts reality whenever she can to keep you at a more uncomfortable level of engagement. Whether it is the battle of conjoined twins or lanterns moving and glowing under your skin this collection is a trill to read.
We Know What We Are is now available for order from Rose Metal Press, and features two-color letterpressed covers, printed by hand on a Vandercook press at The Museum of Printing in North Andover, Massachusetts. The chapbook has been produced in a limited run of just 300 copies. The book release event Part I will be on Sunday, August 16, in the Orange Alert Series at the Whistler, and Release Party Part II on Saturday, September 11, at StoryStudio Chicago.