Mouthful of Birds is a collection of 20 short stories translated from Spanish. I generally don’t like short stories, but this book was longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019, so I read a few stories. They are magical realist stories such as a girl ate live birds, school children were turned into butterflies, or a pregnant woman got rid of her pregnancy by an untraditional method and spat it out into a jar the size of an almond, etc… The writing is fresh and captivating, so if you like short story collection, you’ll probably enjoy it.
Reading Fever Dream is a completely different experience. I felt like I was on a suspenseful ride driven by Amanda and David. The whole novella is in fact the dialogue between those two, Amanda, lying on her deathbed and David, who was not her child. Amanda recollected the short period of time when she rented a vacation house in the small town and stayed there with her littler girl, while waiting for her husband currently working in Buenos Aires to come. Then she met David’s mother, Carla, who lived nearby. And strange things happened. Amanda told David that his mother told her David got sick when he was a little boy after drinking the water from the town’s river. Carla brought her son to the local healer who healed him using folklore superstition, thus a part of his spirit would migrate to a healthy body, and some strange spirit would be brought to the sick body.
Once in a while Amanda’s memory was blurry and she was confused, then David prompted her with his questions or his explanation and his version of the story, for her to stay on track and finished telling her story.
Schweblin writes in the magical realism style like the big Latin American writers Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges. Her powerful and unsettling prose created an eerie story filled with ancient myth and profound mother’s love for their children. Fever Dream is also a critique of toxic agricultural chemicals used by big landowners and the consequences of them.
If you love suspense and magical realism, you would love this book.