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Zero at the Bone
Rewriting Life after a Snakebite
By Erec Toso
224 pp. / 6.00 in x 9.00 in / 2007
Paper (978-0-8165-2591-1)
Related Interest
  - Literature and Essays

Late one evening in the summer of 2003, Erec Toso arrived home to his wife and children after an ordinary day at his university office. In the darkness of his yard, a rattlesnake lay along the path,
Toso is at his best writing about the desert.

—High Country News

Toso writes with simplicity and clarity about his near-fatal, life-shattering encounter with a rattlesnake. Toso used his pain and trauma to rethink his relationship to the animal world and to death itself. Toso's deeply personal work does not seek or accept easy answers; it deserves broad readership and critical acclaim.

—Library Journal

This book is an inspiring voyage into the heart of a profound spiritual awakening, illustrating that our personal narrative of the world—largely born of conditioning and habit—is but one of many possibilities, and can change in the twinkling of a snake's eye.

—Tucson Weekly

basking in the post-monsoon coolness. Toso, lost in thought, never saw the snake, which struck him on the foot and injected a huge dose of venom.

Zero at the Bone is a deeply personal narrative about Toso's physical recovery and emotional transformation following this near-death experience. In elegant prose that inspires as much as it unsettles, Toso takes the reader along with him on his expedition into the uncharted territory of cellular damage, hallucination, and ultimately profound spiritual awakening. On all levels, it is a book about pain. Toso spares no detail in his accounts of agonizing hospital procedures, in his revelations about rattlesnake lore, or in his descriptions of the wide-ranging effects of snake venom. But quickly the reader realizes that the physical pain of the snakebite is only the more tangible marker of the psychological pain and turmoil that Toso endures in the emotional journey that ensues.

In the months that follow his terrifying attack, priorities, daily habits, family relations, and definitions of self all come into question. What is predictable becomes problematic; what is comfortable becomes disconcerting. In a story that hinges on a common fear about an unlikely event—that of a snakebite—Toso uncovers a more widespread reality that many of us do not fear enough—complacency.

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