Book Buzz: Brutalities

Brutalities:  A Love Story by Margo Steines  

Since she was a teenager, Margo Steines has been drawn to risk and self-inflicted suffering. Substance use, an abusive relationship, and careers as a dominatrix and a welder in high-rise buildings are all stops on her lifetime tour of pain—both physical and emotional. Even after she settles into a life of relative comfort and safety, her addiction to overexercising takes a toll on her body.  

From the vantage point of her most dangerous situation yet—a high-risk pregnancy in 2020—Steines reflects on her unique relationship to violence. Why is self-harm easier than self-care? Why is pain preferable to feeling nothing at all? Her partner is a gentle man who coaches MMA, and she marvels at his ability to limit violence to the sparring mats. 

Even while describing shocking and brutal experiences (this book comes with a high dose of trigger warnings), Steines’ prose is always thoughtful, never sensational. This memoir is about how to choose softness in a world that has been hard on you.  

Reviewed by Emma Radosevich, collection development librarian, Whatcom County Library System

(Originally published in Bellingham Alive April 2024 issue.)