Excerpt from Breath and Bones by Susann Cokal, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Breath and Bones

A Novel

By Susann Cokal

Breath and Bones
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  • Hardcover: May 2005,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: May 2006,
    400 pages.

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Print Excerpt

Breath and Bones

Susann Cokal

This little book treats of delicate subjects,
and has been sent to you only by request.
It is not intended for indiscriminate reading,
but for your own private information.



Dedication
To three generations of Familjeflickor

           Tove Rasmussen
                        Gunver Hasselbalch
                                   Krishna Cokal
                                               Gry Hasselbalch

Altid med de bedste hensigter.




Beauty like hers is genius.
- Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Prologue

- Hygeia Springs, or Hygiene: 26.2 miles from the western (narrow gauge) rail terminus at Harmsway, with tracks presently being extended to the village itself. It is halfway up the mountain and so situated as to promote respiratory hygiene and health, with picturesque scenery on every side. The hospital building was erected at a cost of $80,000 and is not equaled by any other such institution in the West; thus for the last half-decade it has rivaled the nearby gold mines in its contributions to the region’s prosperity. The visitor may enjoy the naturally carbonated spring waters or tour the small but none the less distinguished gallery of paintings, privately owned and free to the public on the first Monday of each month. Of several good hotels, the Celestial is the best.

—Frederick E. Shearer, The Pacific Tourist, revised edition, 1892


The cemetery seemed to roll on for miles, its plinths and statues struggling through the folds of a hillside thinly dusted white. A strange situation for a house of art, the widow thought; but these graves, like the mine tailings on the mountain below or the crenellated fortress above, were nothing to her.

Two men met her at the fortress door. One was tall and raw and bony, with a disturbing stripe of pink scalp showing, as if he had been attacked by savages. His hands, also, were knotted with scar tissue, white ridges and mountains straining against the bones beneath. The other man, just slightly shorter, wore silken gloves, as if to say his own hands would do no more work on this earth; from his dark spectacles and blank expression, she surmised that he was blind. She did not ask their names, and they did not need to ask hers. She already knew the tall man, knew he was of her native country. She could speak as she wished, and he would translate.

"We are honored. "The blind man spoke English, but quite clearly. "Thank you for traveling all this way. "

"It was my husband’s wish. "She saw no need to pretend she was glad of it—though she was very glad finally to be unburdening herself of the crate and its contents. "Your drivers are opening the box now. "

The taller man translated for the blind one, then turned back to her.

"Would you like to see where it will hang?" he asked, and she supposed she would.

There were four rooms to the gallery, each one feebly seeping light through narrow windows. The first two were crowded, with pictures hung nearly floor to ceiling and some of the frames knocking against each other.

Excerpted from Breath and Bones© Susann Cokal. Published by Unbridled Books. All rights reserved

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