Tracing the Desire Line

Available for purchase at Split Lip Press and Powell’s Bookstore.

Tracing the Desire Line was a FINALIST for the 2021 OREGON BOOK AWARD in Creative Nonfiction.

The book, as memoir-in-essays, follows the narrator’s journey as a pirate radio DJ, writer, mother, and organic farmer exploring identity, sexuality, and feminine desire through opening her marriage with her husband. The book looks closely at what happens when the narrator runs the edges of desire by questioning the nature of monogamy and freedom within a conventional marriage. Along the way, the book detours into memory and meditations on various subjects that frame the narrator’s story including music, religion, love, and wildness.


“A gripping and lyrical look at marriage, motherhood, and desire. This memoir-in-essays unearths Matthewson’s stirrings, endeavors, and adventures beyond wife and mother to reveal the woman she hopes to be: free. Matthewson’s prose pulls like the current of an easy river, and the yearnings she reveals burn like whiskey at dusk. With echoes of Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay” and Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” Matthewson presents a woman, a writer, a mother, and a lover unafraid to chase the storm. For anyone whose wanting has always been too much, this is the book for you.”–Jill Talbot, author of The Way We Weren’t: A Memoir

“In Tracing the Desire Line, Melissa Matthewson creates an achingly honest and raw portrait of a woman and a marriage traveling through a difficult season of growth and change. This beautiful memoir, smart and open and gorgeously written, marks the debut of an important literary voice.”–Cari Luna, author of The Revolution of Every Day

“In prose that is luminous, smart and lyrical, Matthewson has woven a powerful and immensely moving story of marriage, belonging, desire and the wildness that exists both outside of us and within. I read this book in a trance of astonishment and gratitude.” —Robin MacArthur, author of Half Wild and Heart Spring Mountain

“This is a book about shifting definitions—of home, marriage, and self—and about the courage it takes and the prices we pay when we set about to challenge former ideas…Because Matthewson is so nimble-minded, her essays shift and mutate–in focus, voice, point of view, setting, and tone. Reading them, one feels the kaleidoscopic nature of genuine examination. What a brilliant debut.”–Barbara Hurd, author of Listening to the Savage: River Notes and Half-Heard Melodies