A surreal novella by Samanta Schweblin and translated by Megan McDowell
4/5 Star Review
It’s nearly the end of September and I am wrapping up the month-long anniversary celebration for The Ladies of Horror Fiction. This lovely team celebrated their first full year of spotlighting the amazing ladies of horror! There was a read-a-thon taking place for the entire month and it featured five different reading challenges – check out this link for the details!
I read Fever Dream for Challenge #3 – Read a Book by a POC (Person of Color). This is my third “official” pick for the read-a-thon.
Fever Dream is a hallucinatory tale of a woman called Amanda who is dying in a rural clinic. At her side sits a young boy called David who pushes her to tell the story of how she arrived there.
I hesitate to say much more about the plot as this is only a novella and it is easy to give too much of the story away. Schweblin is originally from Argentina and paints that landscape clearly in a short amount of time. The tale is set in the country – an area that is still heavily reliant on traditional healers rather than modern medicine.
My only complaint, and it is minimal, is that I felt this story needed to be a little bit longer, needed a little bit more time to cook. There are ambiguous endings and there are endings that just don’t quite feel complete – this felt like the latter to me.
Overall, I quite enjoyed this cautionary tale of modern evils and the plight of those who are only beginning to understand them and their consequences. The novella is a gorgeous blend of surrealism, hallucinations, confusion, unreliable characters, and magic. This is a great little book which should be devoured in one sitting and I recommend this to those who enjoy a healthy mix of magical realism and horror.
A debut novel of taxidermy and finding oneself by Kristen Arnett
5/5 Star Review
It’s the beginning of September, the start of a month-long anniversary celebration for The Ladies of Horror Fiction. This lovely team is celebrating their first full year of spotlighting the amazing ladies of horror! If you would like to join in the festivities, there is a read-a-thon taking place for the entire month and it features five different reading challenges – check out this link for more details!
Why am I mentioning the read-a-thon on this review? One of the five challenges is to read a book by an LGBTQIA+ Author. While Mostly Dead Things is not horror, it does contain graphic details of a suicide and animal gore – things some might consider horror adjacent, a little macabre. This is not a title for those sensitive to, let’s say, the process of creating taxidermy.
Having said that – you absolutely need to read this book! It is an unputdownable story about a family finally beginning to understand each other a year after the suicide of the family patriarch. Jessa Morton has been groomed to take over the family’s taxidermy business since she was a young girl. A year after her father’s death, she is now a young woman trying to keep the business afloat and her family together. Her brother, Milo, has never recovered from the heartbreak of his wife running away with another man – nor has Jessa. Milo’s former wife was the only true love of Jessa’s life and she abandoned them both without so much as a note. Jessa’s mother is dealing with her grief in a way that no one understands – making sexually explicit dioramas out of the taxidermy in the shop’s display window. Told through flashbacks and current happenings, Arnett brings these characters to life and makes them relatable and so human – if you are not one of these characters, then you know someone just like them.
The other character in this book, the one that Arnett truly brought to life for me was Florida. Everything about this town was so real. There are a lot of authors who write novels set in Florida, but it’s a contrived reality – it’s theme parks, it’s beaches, or it’s full of over-the-top Florida Man-esque characters. As a central Florida native, I saw my home in this novel. I saw the small town people trying to get by, I saw the lakes and alligators, I saw the remnants of the Florida Cracker life that still exists. If you want a novel that’s real Florida – this is it.
Highly recommended! I absolutely can’t wait to order her short story collection, Felt in the Jaw!