Animal Bodies


Animal Bodies

On Death, Desire, and Other Difficulties

Suzanne Roberts

252 pages


March 2022


$19.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

March 2022


$19.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

March 2022


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Longlisted for the 2023 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

How do we reckon with our losses? In Animal Bodies Suzanne Roberts explores the link between death and desire and what it means to accept our own animal natures, the parts we most often hide, deny, or consider only with shame—our taboo desires and our grief. In landscapes as diverse as Salamanca’s cobbled streets, the Mekong River’s floating markets, Fire Island’s windswept beaches, Nashville’s honky-tonks, and the Sierra Nevada’s snowy slopes, Roberts interrogates her memory and tries to make sense of her own private losses (deaths of people and relationships), as well as more public losses, including a mass shooting in her hometown and environmental devastation in the Amazon rainforest.

With lyricism, insight, honesty, and dark humor, these essays illuminate the sometimes terrible beauty of what it means to be human, deepening the conversation on death and grief, sexuality, and the shame that comes from surviving the world in a female body with all of its complexities.

Author Bio

Suzanne Roberts is the author of Bad Tourist: Misadventures in Love and Travel (Nebraska, 2020), Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail (Bison Books, 2012), and four collections of poetry. Visit her website:


“Personal and heart wrenching, the essays of Animal Bodies concern control and surrender.”—Dontaná Mcpherson-Joseph, Foreword Reviews

“[Animal Bodies] is beautifully observed and realized, heartfelt and informed, self-deprecating, and often wryly witty. These essays explore how the bodies we inhabit bring pleasure and shame. How the planet which hosts us is beautiful and terrible. How sometimes we cherish it, and sometimes we treat it as carelessly as we would a disdainful ex. How grief is the residue of love.”—Elizabeth Bales Frank, Brevity

"For readers who have experienced grief—and that's all of us—Animal Bodies by Suzanne Roberts will resonate. Readers will not have had all of the same experiences as the author, but we certainly have felt the same sorts of confusion and pain, and this connection, this bond between reader and writer can make us all feel less alone in our own grief."—Pam Anderson, Portland Review

"How do we grieve? How do we look at the most shameful parts of ourselves? How do we reconcile with our contradictory nature? In Animal Bodies: Death, Desire, and Other Difficulties, Suzanne Roberts's newest book of lyrical, poignant, and daring essays, the author takes us into the trenches."—Vilune Sestokaite,

“In Animal Bodies, Suzanne Roberts offers surprising insight, both intimate and universal, into death, desire, and how we all move through this difficult world. Her essays are ruthless, beautiful, graceful, and endlessly fascinating. A wonderful book.”—Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic and Desire

“Suzanne Roberts’s essays are eloquent and vibrantly imaginative. They are lyrical in the best sense: the language is rhythmic, pulsing on the page, but never poeticized, flowery, or vague. Roberts’s wisdom and humor are evident throughout. I so welcome a collection of her essays, all in one place.”—Carolyn Forché, author of What You Have Heard Is True

“No one travels the depths of place and experience more phenomenally than Suzanne Roberts. In these essays that explore being, beauty, desire, death, and our collective animal journeys on the planet, Animal Bodies gathers our questions about life and brings them to the only place where meaning might emerge: adaptation. This book is a triumph that transcends humans and gives us a chance to re-story ourselves into the larger world.”—Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water

Animal Bodies is a marvel, a heartbreaking road map of living, loving, and grieving. Roberts bravely recalls the deaths of her alcoholic father, her dear friend, and her mother, a complex force in her life. Here, we read about rape, escape, affairs, and repair. There is wilderness and then, somehow, the clearing—both in her world travels and the dying around her. Thinking about death clarifies life, and Roberts knows the thin line between grief and joy, the importance of living fully and fighting for freedom without apology. This is hard-earned wisdom and liberation. I can’t stop thinking about it.”—Lee Herrick, author of Scar and Flower and Gardening Secrets of the Dead

“I have been thinking about one particular Suzanne Roberts essay, ‘Breaking the Codes,’ since I first read it. Sometimes I open a closet door and my stomach drops, remembering one painful scene in her essay. Sometimes I see a group of teenagers and I wonder, and worry, about all of them. Roberts’s writing rearranges me in some fundamental and necessary ways. A book like this, a book by her, is a book I desperately need.”—Camille T. Dungy, author of Guidebook to Relative Strangers and Soil: The History of a Black Mother’s Garden

“Here, we travel with Roberts to beaches in Florida, to hospital rooms for chemotherapy, to Nashville honky-tonks, and to the Amazon rainforest. She carries to each of the locations her acute insight and her courageous and uncompromising desire to witness and record the world.”—Didi Jackson, author of Moon Jar

Table of Contents

Author’s Note


The Essay Determines How It Will Begin
The Grief Scale
Eight Hours
The Same Story
Becoming Bird
A Kiss for the Dying
Bone & Skin
Wearing Her Eye Shadow
A Love Letter to My Hometown after the Shooting
The Red Canoe
Traveling with Ghosts
Friending the Dead


Keep Your Numbers Down
In Love with the World
This Far from Desire
Traveling Alone
Winter Travel
The Hungry Bride
Breaking the Codes
My Mother’s Daughter
Funerals, Safety Pins, and Flaming Saddles
The Good-Time Girl
What She Must Do

Other Difficulties

Animal Bodies
The Queen of the Amazon
A True Story about Jealousy
The Last Goodbye
Rites of Passage
Traveling with the Dead
The Disappearing Act
Honky-Tonk Woman
Auntie Suzanne
The Danger Scale
Words Etched into Skin
Mother Keeps Daddy on the Shelf
Ways to Speak the Unspeakable
Dreaming in the Time of Wildfire



Longlisted for the 2023 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

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