Review: Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats

Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats
Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Radioactivity, the silent killer, stalks more of us than we realize, and nowhere is this more clear than in Kristen Iversen’s stunning memoir FULL BODY BURDEN: GROWING UP IN THE NUCLEAR SHADOW OF ROCKY FLATS (for those of you who don’t know, Rocky Flats was a nuclear weapons plant which manufactured the plutonium “pits” which served as triggers for atomic bombs). Iversen’s gorgeous prose tells us the story of her dealing with all of the secrets in her family against the backdrop of the secrets going on at the weapons plant, and there is seamless transition between the creative and informational narratives (the latter of which is anything but dry or boring, not an easy achievement). What I enjoyed most about the work as a whole, however, was its pervasive irony: Iversen describes in disturbing, sharply-rendered detail wading through irrigation ditches which originated at Rocky Flats, discovering a dead cow with no apparent cause for his condition on the edge of a nearby lake, suffering the losses of neighbors who pass of odd cancers, struggling through mysterious illnesses no one seems to be able to diagnose, and more—in the unaware voice of her youth, so that the reader, who clearly knows what she doesn’t, is left screaming “move away!” “Don’t touch that!” “Don’t play in that water!” Not only could I not put this book down, my nerves were shot at the end of it: this is a real-life horror story, reinforcing the idea that what we don’t know can, indeed, kill us.

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About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of the New England Horror Writers. Follow her adventures at

Posted on July 7, 2014, in News. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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