Sacraments for the Unfit cover
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Sacraments for the Unfit cover

Sacraments for the Unfit is available in trade paperback and ebook from

The isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic brought out the ritualist in many of us. In this collection of contemporary weird short fiction, a variety of different persons and beings try to fill up their days in varying states of isolation and mystery, real or imaginary. An angel outlives the Apparat that used to employ him; a deity complains about no longer feeling seen; a museum curator living alone begins to inexplicably alter; a medievalist suffering from vision loss gets into a strange relationship with the ghost of the codicologist M. R. James; enigmatic objects begin to work themselves out of the ground by the grave of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, prompting scholarly speculation. Sacraments For the Unfit is a series of vignettes about the transformations that can happen while staying in place.


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Tony Walker reads “The Hand of M. R. James,” a story from Sacraments for the Unfit on his Classic Ghost Stories podcast; after the reading, Tony Walker interviews Sarah about the story and about Sacraments for the Unfit. This episode is available on the Classic Ghost Stories web site, and on its YouTube channel. The podcast’s archive contains a wealth of ghost stories, beautifully read by a connoisseur; it is well worth exploring.



Tristan Beiter, Strange Horizons, 3 July 2023

Sarah Tolmie’s new collection, Sacraments for the Unfit, takes on isolation, alienation, and the problem of connection in a gorgeously contemporary take on the weird. The stories address the last several years directly, imagining reconfigurations of modern life alongside the fantastical and bizarre. They highlight new forms and relations of divinity, contemporary technological experiences, and the vagaries of academic life with deftly distant style and elegant estrangement.

[…] This focus on the liminal characterizes the book as a whole. Sacraments for the Unfit reveals the uncertainty and instability at the heart of our lives in this present. We, like Tolmie’s characters, are living through a period of change, or perhaps are now simply seeing the sort of change that has long been at the heart of human attempts to categorize, understand, and structure our worlds. We, again like Tolmie’s characters, must navigate the everyday with the tools we can construct ourselves. And these tools, the book reminds us, include those of thought. It is this philosophical perspective that both produces an awareness of the contradictions at the heart of contemporary life and begins to build a sense of how we might address them.

The collection’s individual stories are strong, making deft use of their style and voice to take on a wide range of topics and concerns in contemporary life. But it is the mind behind them, behind their style and voice, that holds the whole work together. Philosophical rigor of a distinctly weird-fiction bent is the defining characteristic of these stories. They all bridge the gap between the allegorical and the literal, using the philosophical investigation of the impossible … to speak to our present by means of what is shared, not what these fantastical moments might stand in for. Sacraments for the Unfit asks us to think along with it, delivering on the promise of its second epigraph (from Wittgenstein): “A good and serious philosophical work could be written entirely of jokes.” Though the collection is not entirely of jokes, the humor and delight of the stories leavens and strengthens the rich philosophical perspective which begins to see a path to meaning through what it depicts as our consideration of, and connection to, the very things that seem to endanger sense—which give us, the unfit who do not deserve it, the grace to continue on.