Professor dives into controversial themes in latest novel

Durgin McCue
Business Manager

“The Ribs and Thigh bones of Desire” by professor Sandra Hutchison received numerous positive reviews in 2015.
“It feels great. It’s what I write for,” she said.

What stands out as being particularly fulfilling to Hutchison is when her favorite authors write good reviews of her novel. “That means the world to me as a writer,” she said.

The novel, set in a Western Massachusetts town, follows the lives of a middle-aged man and his babysitter. The novel addresses sexuality, loss and survival.

“I didn’t initially intend for the story to be about survival,” said Hutchison. Hutchison is the type of writer that doesn’t have an outline for her writing. She wasn’t sure where she would go with her story when she started writing it, but she understands the difficulty of people to survive trauma. “I think it’s hard to be a survivor, especially when you feel guilty about being a survivor,” she said.

According to Hutchison, the novel is not autobiographical, but some elements of the story do come from her life. While living in Massachusetts, one of Hutchison’s neighbors, a middle-aged man, married his teenage babysitter.
“I was also a teenage babysitter around that time, so I wondered what was going on with a relationship like that,” said Hutchison. “Was it something where he really loved her? So I explored that a little.” It wasn’t until several decades later that Hutchison revisited the topic and wrote a complete novel.

Hutchison believes that the atmosphere surrounding teenage marriages has changed significantly since the 1970s, which is when the book is set. “At that time, it was not as uncommon for girls to get married in high school,” she said.

In the 1970s, Hutchison noticed there wasn’t as much awareness about pedophilia or sexual predators as we have now. “Today I think it would be much more frowned upon,” said Hutchison.

Despite the novel’s focus on romantic relationships, Hutchison does not classify it as a romance. “It has romantic elements, but if I tried to sell it as a romance I’d have a lot of angry readers,” said Hutchison. “Most people who buy romances really want that promise of a happy ending,” she said.

Hutchison has been described as a feminist writer on more than one occasion, with which Hutchison agrees. “Ultimately, part of the message of the book is that it is up to a girl to decide what she wants to do with her body,” she said.

Before “The Ribs and Thigh bones of Desire,” Hutchison published “The Awful Mess” in 2013. Hutchison describes it as an updated version of The Scarlet Letter, and says it addresses faith and hypocrisy.

In addition to her novels, Hutchison also has a comedic short story, ”The Short, Spectacular Indie-Publishing Career of Matilda Walter,” available on for free.

Hutchison has taken a sabbatical this semester to finish another novel titled, “Bardwell’s Folley.” Continuing in her theme of controversial topics, this book will tackle racial issues. “It’s an adventure through racial politics,” she said. “I like to take on dangerous topics.”

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