“Cox is a talented storyteller with a knack for mixing sublime prose with humor and violence, and her insights about love, family, and photography fill the narrative with bits of superb writing. Touching, clever, and hilarious, this is a notable debut.” —Publishers Weekly
“The freak explosion at a small-town Ohio pencil factory [is told] from the points of view of three women caught in the fallout…These are earnest, irony-free…tales of trauma and recovery that add up to a larger story of community revival. Esther, struggling ‘to control a mouth with a mind of its own,’ is the standout character. Her OCD is a nightmare but also the source of her tenacity.” —The Wall Street Journal
“I Keep My Worries in My Teeth is a binge-worthy novel that’s laced with so many unexpected surprises…I absolutely loved it.” —Hypable
“In her impressive debut novel, Anna Cox animates the inner lives of three memorable women…a disarming narrative that echoes the funny/sad storytelling sensibilities of Aimee Bender and Karen Russell. [An] astute first novel.” —Full Stop
A dazzling, sublimely funny debut that follows three unforgettable women who fight back after life kicks them in the teeth.
Esther, Frankie, and Ruth live in a small Ohio town anchored by the thriving Juliet Pencils factory. After a freak accident at the plant, these women have to re-create their lives using the only tools they’ve got: wits, molars, and a new pair of shoes.
Esther is an anxious person with a very specific prowess: she bites pencils. Her skill pays her bills but more importantly keeps her many worries in check. When the accident leaves her suddenly unemployed, she searches for new ways to manage her anxiety, but nothing works. She must discover a solution before her teeth mutiny and her worries take over.
Frankie, the teenage daughter of the pencil factory owner, is full of contradictions. She wages a campaign to become the only girl in an all-boys club and listens exclusively to punk music, but she also watches soap operas in secret. After the accident damages Frankie’s ability to speak, she is forced to step out of her powerful mother’s shadow so she can discover who she is and what she wants to say.
Ruth owns the local photography lab. She spends her days processing people’s happy memories but spends her nights alone, talking to her dead husband. As the town unravels, Ruth spearheads a massive campaign to refocus on its future, but nothing will succeed until Ruth lets go of her past.
This hilarious and redemptive story explores three women’s liberation amid a tumult of grief, loneliness, and first love.
Anna Cox teaches photography at universities in Canada and the United States. This is her first novel.