By Tatiana Ryckman
A young woman contemplates the end of her life as she’s known it as tragedy after tragedy accumulates around her, threaded with her relationship to desire, consent, and control.
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
A young woman meets a man at a restaurant. They exchange words only briefly, but by the end of the week he has entered her world with an intensity rivaled only by her desire to end her life.
Told with the lyrical persistence of a Greek chorus, The Ancestry of Objects unravels the story of the unnamed narrator’s affair with David: married, graying, and in whose malcontent she sees her need for change. Religion, the mystery of her absent mother, and the ghosts of her grandparents haunt her meetings with him. Memories start, stop, and loop back in on themselves to form the web of her identity and her voice—something she’s looked for her whole life. Nothing can fill the voids of time and loss; not God, not memory, not family, and certainly not love.
At once intensely sensory and urgently erotic, The Ancestry of Objects parses the multiplicity of selves who become a part of us as we push to survive. This is Ryckman —a master of the obsessive, desirous, complex exhaustion of human relationships—in peak form.
Tatiana Ryckman is the author of I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do), (Future Tense), and two chapbooks of prose; she is the editor of Austin-based publisher Awst Press. She has been a writer in residence at Yaddo, Arthub, and 100W. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Lit Hub, Paper Darts, Barrelhouse, The Rumpus, and other publications. Tatiana can be found on airplanes or at tatianaryckman.com.
One of Literary Hub‘s Most Anticipated Books of 2020
"A small but mighty book exploring desire and the ways in which we process grief. Ryckman strips her language to the essentials without doing away with vivid description and figurative language, reflecting upon what the objects that we surround ourselves with reflect about ourselves. An exercise in constraint, the book manages to say more with less, leaving the reader with profound impressions that encourage deeper engagement and thought. An unnamed narrator grapples with a deep sense of loss, attempting to fill the void with a tumultuous affair with a married man, only to realize any chance of respite she has must come from within herself. A rich exploration of a young woman's psyche, left open enough for a reader to find him or herself within its pages." ––Meghana, Seminary Co-op
“Darkly fascinating, impeccably observed, and written with razor-sharp prose, Tatiana Ryckman’s Ancestry of Objects is a story about total and desperate devotion, and how easily we betray ourselves in order to not feel alone. There is such a tenderness in Ryckman’s prose, I never wanted the story to end.” —Cristina Rodriguez, Deep Vellum Books
"The Ancestry of Objects is a quiet yet jagged contemplation on what makes or gives life — to a human, to a kitchen table, to a blade of grass, to a memory or feeling — and a call to move, however slowly, however sluggishly, against inertia whenever we're able." —Anna Claire Weber, Bookseller at White Whale Bookstore
“Ryckman’s The Ancestry of Objects accomplishes a difficult and compelling tension with lyrical prose that ropes readers into a nuanced depiction of the pleasure and pain of human relationships. She renders the figures of her fragmented novel with a stark tenderness, reflecting the beauty and unattractiveness of desire. There are no villains, no heroes, just complications between people whose flaws will draw readers to recognize themselves and our shared yearning to be known.” —Donald Quist, author of Harbors and For Other Ghosts
“Tatiana Ryckman’s second novel, The Ancestry of Objects, takes us deep into the labyrinth of eros and its manias. There is adultery, there is loneliness and abandonment, there is shame and longing, a family of ghosts, and there is a woman learning how to live and finally, how to love herself.” —Micheline Marcom, author of The Brick House
“I’ve always loved Ryckman’s fiction, but nothing in the idiosyncratic originality of her short stories prepared me for her stunning novel with its dark eroticism, its plunge into depths of loneliness, and its quest for paradoxical liberation. Her extraordinary narrator lives in a state of erasure but thinks as plural: the social self for whom everything is always “fine”; the guilty, sinful self as defined by the now-dead grandparents; the self who needs to be seen through the outside eye of the absent lover, the absent God; and most of all, the self who feels dead in daily life and alive when courting an exuberant annihilation. In reading this powerful and disturbing short novel, I found myself splitting as well, into the reader who could not put these pages down, and the reader who had to, in order to regain her equilibrium and catch her throttled breath.” —Diane Lefer, award-winning author of California Transit, playwright, and activist
“‘It is us―our fear and our shame and our pride―and no one else that haunts us,’ says the narrator (or narrators) of this harrowing, startling novel, told in the first person plural. From the moment I started reading, I felt the presence of T.R. Ryckman’s unmistakable genius. You could compare it to Ben Marcus, Alexandra Kleeman, Brian Evanson or Carmen Machado, but really The Ancestry of Objects is in a category of its own.” —Jess Row
“Ryckman writes with cool, tightly packed precision on the futile ways people try to fill the emptiness and absence of life with objects and religion and desperate acts. … A hypnotizing, bleak account of the ways people trap themselves in their own minds.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Readers of lyrical, genre-bending fiction will be spellbound.” —Publishers Weekly
“A dizzying story of girl meets boy, meets her all-encompassing desire, meets her equally fervent wish to end her life, meets the mysteries and ghosts that have circled her whole life, meets . . . so much more. The girl in question, an unnamed narrator, has wells of need and want at her core, for which the boy, David, is an unwitting receptacle. Told in fragments, and memories, and various voices, The Ancestry of Objects whirls the reader through the narrator’s many selves as she attempts to reckon with the voids that we all contend with.” —Julia Hass, Lit Hub Editorial Fellow
“Told with a technique that’s at once formally modern and timeless, Tatiana Ryckman’s new novel tells the story of an affair which takes both of its participants into extreme and harrowing places. The result is an unsettling and powerful story, told in a unique way.”—Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"As of late - and I’ll thank Jenny Offill's thin, unnamed narrator works of genius for this and the pandemic push to gorge myself on as much variety as humanly possible- I’ve been drawn to smaller, more “fragmented” possibly - gasp - experimental work. Such as The Ancestry of Objects and its story of an affair told through the ephemera of such thing. This is no “chonker” but Ryckman’s prodding and dissecting of a tryst sounds fascinating. Also, the cover reminds me of books from the 1990s you might find in a, ahem, Lil’ Library on a Midwestern suburban street. Which, honestly, would’ve been all I needed.”— Noah Sanders, The Racket
"The Ancestry of Objects is both urgent and lyrical, braiding together themes of consent and control, family ghosts, and epic tragedy. A young woman starts an affair with a married man she meets at a restaurant. Within that same week, she can’t stop thinking about ending her own life. Tatiana Ryckman’s darkly erotic new novel questions what it means to survive, and the ways in which we split our identities to do so." –– Electric Literature
"This fractured, compacted text brings into question the inevitability of a life. Because a house—a home—a body, a life, is loaded with the refuse of our ancestors, the weight of domesticity and its many institutions, given form on these pages in peeling cupboards, worn formica, water rings and picked pile carpets. And to live is to carry those burdens."––Rose Hingham-Stainton, Ache Magazine
On I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do):
“(Ryckman) has joined the likes of Clarice Lispector, Claudia Rankine, and John Berger.” —Matthew Dickman, author of Mayakovsky’s Revolver
Ryckman has written the anti-love story within all of us. A book so earnest and sharp in its examination of heartbreak, it will make you ache for all the people you haven’t even loved yet.” —T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls and No Tokens
“Keenly felt and fiercely written. Tatiana Ryckman is a revelation.” —Jennifer duBois, author of Cartwheel
“Tatiana Ryckman has written a wonder; a remarkably accomplished work of such keen observation and emotional complexity as to rival those texts―Maggie Nelson’s Bluets come to mind―with which it shares some literary DNA. Ryckman is a ruthless investigator of reckless desire … I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do) asks―newly, stunningly, with precise prose chiseled from stone―what it is we’re meant to do when the source of our appetite is beyond the realm of our own cognition, and following this narrator in pursuit of the unanswerable is a reading experience as gutting as it is thrilling. One finishes this book with the simple thought: Now here is a person.” —Vincent Scarpa
“A small but mighty book exploring desire and the ways in which we process grief. Ryckman strips her language to the essentials without doing away with vivid description and figurative language, reflecting upon what the objects that we surround ourselves with reflect about ourselves. An exercise in constraint, the book manages to say more with less, leaving the reader with profound impressions that encourage deeper engagement and thought. An unnamed narrator grapples with a deep sense of loss, attempting to fill the void with a tumultuous affair with a married man, only to realize any chance of respite she has must come from within herself. A rich exploration of a young woman's psyche, left open enough for a reader to find him or herself within its pages." —Meghana, Seminary Co-op