by Erec Toso
University of Arizona Press, 2008
eISBN: 978-0-8165-4917-7 | Paper: 978-0-8165-2591-1
Library of Congress Classification PS3620.O87Z46 2007
Dewey Decimal Classification 814.6

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, 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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