When Kristin Bair O’Keeffe approached me to design a web site for her debut novel, Thirsty, I was excited, but also a bit hesitant. It’s the story of one woman’s journey through an abusive marriage, and I wasn’t sure if I could convey the message. The only way for me to understand the story was to read the book. Although Thirsty is not yet published*, I requested the manuscript. After reading through fifteen pages, the concept jumped right out at me. I wasted no time putting the mockup together, and it was exactly what the author had envisioned.

What helped me to come up with the visual design for the web site also kept me engaged to read the entire book: the cinematic scope and lyrical force that Bair O’Keeffe brings to the novel. Right off in the first few pages, her way with words is illustrated through the description of the woman’s eyes: “They were odd, but beautiful—green like the skin of a grape just before picking. Bright and luscious.” Her writing gets juicier in the scandalous sex details: “She put his hands on her ass and begged him in deep throaty pleadings to bite her nipples, harder, she said. That redhot fire crawled up her thighs and spread through her pussy so hard and so fast that she nearly tipped over taking off the petticoat.” Her ingenious, filmic storytelling comes to life in the dark moments of the book like the battering scenes and the accidents that occur at the steel mill.

Though Thirsty is a dramatic novel, Bair O’Keeffe manages to lighten up the gloomy corners with a sense of hope and humor. I still get a kick out of her very hilarious “Amen” story. Through her poetic pen and literary sensibility, Bair O’Keeffe has penned an art of fiction that taps into human emotion, brutalization, and compassion.

(Thirsty will be published in October 2009 by Swallow Press.)