Binary Star by Sarah Gerard and My Woman by Angel Olsen

Sarah Gerard’s debut novel, Binary Star, is for hopeless romantics. Her prose is brief. Events are factually recalled. The effect is a rapid and harsh, resulting in an honest evaluation of mental illness and the pitfalls of intimacy.

The story follows an unnamed astronomy student as she travels the United States with her long-distance boyfriend, John. The couple embarks on their trip from Chicago around the Pacific coast “to find something new.” The goal is uncertain to the characters, but it becomes apparent they are attempting “to escape their problems—her anorexia and his alcoholism” as Gerard describes.  

Gerard does not hesitate to reveal the narrator’s feelings for her partner, saying:

Belief is brittle. My skin is dry and brittle and cracks. I am always bleeding, especially from the fingers. I do not believe John loves me. There.

I believe that John used to love me.

I do without my body: I am you, I am me, I am you, I am me: I always end with you.

Angel Olsen’s latest album, My Woman, speaks these same truths. Asheville resident by way of Chicago, Olsen more than proved her prowess as a songwriter with the release of her third full-length album. Pitchfork claimed, “it’s tough and tender at once, a bold rumination on how love and autonomy require one another.”  

These artists don’t shy away from the burdens of love, but aren’t afraid to find the beauty in it either.