The Ancestry of Objects


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 8th, 2020

Paperback: 9781646050253

eBook:  9781646050260



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.

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One of Literary Hub‘s “Most Anticipated Books of 2020 (Part 2)”

“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

“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

“The richly rendered isolation of this novel feels even more intense in this pandemic. You should buy this book!” ―Dylon Jones

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