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Oregon Book Awards: Finalist Amy Schutzer

You can cast your vote for the 2015 Readers’ Choice Award online at www.literary-arts.org/voteOBA! The winner will be announced at the Oregon Book Awards ceremony on April 13 at the Gerding Theater at the Armory.

Between now and April 13, we will be featuring all of the 2015 Oregon Book Awards finalists.

SpheresofDisturbance2015 Oregon Book Awards Finalist

Spheres of Disturbance by Amy Schutzer




Red Hen Press

About the book:

Helen is dying. Helen is choosing to die. Over the course of one day in 1985, those who surround her—among them her daughter, an art thief, a high-strung housewife and crochet artist, a lesbian poet, and a pregnant Vietnamese pot-bellied pig—grapple with her impending end. In nine revolving points of view, they resist or accept, impact or impede the trajectories of Helen’s death in the world around them, tracing the mark of a culture that tries, desperately and impossibly, to deny death. By turns haunting, sensual, and brilliantly cunning, Spheres of Disturbance explores how we can bear to approach, or even choose, our inevitable end.

About the author: 

Amy Schutzer‘s first novel, Undertow (Calyx Books, 2000), was a Lambda Book Award finalist, a Violet Quill Award finalist, and a Today’s Librarian “Best of 2000” Award-winner. Spheres of Disturbance is her newest novel. She is the recipient of an Astraea Foundation Grant for Fiction and a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Finishing Line Press published Taking the Scarecrows Down, a chapbook of poetry, in 2011. She has worked as a US Postal Carrier, a cashier, a bookkeeper, a legal assistant, and a Nabisco factory worker. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Excerpt from Spheres of Disturbance:

In the house, up the scant rise from the river, an alarm clock rings. Daylight seeps through the weeping willows with their breathy leaf curtains and strikes. Charlotta inches her head into a finger of sun. The ringing alarm, alarm, then Avery in her bedroom with the window open, shuts the ringing off and wrenches the radio too loud. Morning light etches dark amber against the back of the house. The song from the radio ignites the air.

In the outdoor pen, Charlotta stamps her hoof into the pile of straw. Her hefty, heated-up belly keeps her anchored with the fat piglets squiggling inside. The air has a smell. Rocky cold. Stiff mud. When the radio starts up, Charlotta turns her stubbly rump to the river and whatever might be floating by. The parade: several dog-eared maple leaves behind a Dairyland milk carton and a forked willow branch. Charlotta’s ears twitch at the slight percussive groan. The river riffs bank to bank. She waits. Watches the house. The song plays from the radio, then another. The songs break into skittering singing, guitars barking, and shaking sounds like acorns falling.

From this distance, through the windows of the house, Avery is like fog billowing up from the ground. Avery appears, Avery vanishes. Charlotta waits, watches—the same thing, every day. Her tiny, intent eyes combine the misty shape of Avery into a solidifed Avery, into Avery getting closer, arriving with breakfast.

Amy Schutzer’s website:



Lambda Literary

“The big strength of Spheres of Disturbance, (other than the pleasure and height of Schutzer’s language, a lyricism we find when a poet writes a novel) is its network like mode of storytelling—these short chapters achieve a facet like quality—light from different angles, illuminating a stone.”

Cleaver Magazine

“Many small, brilliant scenes and insights illuminate a larger picture of love and loss. Schutzer writes beautifully… By anchoring her story even as she transcends it, Schutzer underscores that death is a natural, present, and present-tense process, rather than a fear-clouded experience that takes place in some parallel universe. Spheres of Disturbance resonates with honesty and humanity—perhaps why I found it so helpful and comforting.”

The Collagist

“Amy Schutzer’s second novel, Spheres of Disturbance, brims with ambitious characters and the things they love to create: hand-carved bowls and macramé plant holders, gallery installations, and books of poetry….Schutzer delivers each of these scenes, and the general sense of growing chaos, with piercing descriptive skill.”

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