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Mouthful of Birds: Stories

Review

Mouthful of Birds: Stories

written by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell

Samanta Schweblin's MOUTHFUL OF BIRDS maintains its power in Megan McDowell's immaculate translation. Nightmarish and prescient, these 20 short stories weave magic and trauma through allegory and vivid imagery.

A child's wishes take on a dark edge in "Santa Claus Sleeps at Our House," and the devastating realities of fairy tales return in "The Merman." The atrocious yet brutally familiar intersections of art, capitalism and misogynist violence erupt in "The Heavy Suitcase of Benavides." And in the title story, a father watches in horror as the intricacies of his daughter's appetite become violently unavoidable.

"Nightmarish and prescient, these 20 short stories weave magic and trauma through allegory and vivid imagery."

Of parents and children and the peculiar, powerful love and sacrifice that emerge between them. Of the suffering and helplessness that can link men and women. Of the mysteries of the natural world and the exhausting predictability of other people and the self. Of trauma and a lack of closure. Some of these tales will stick with you more than others, but which those are will depend on the reader, and that's to be expected with any short story collection.

Schweblin's works are exemplary short stories. She is a master of the craft, and each piece opens a strange, compelling window into a fully imagined yet artfully withholding world. At times, the book reads angry and rightfully retaliatory; at others, devastated. It bites and bleeds, surprises and leans into discomfort. The violence can sometimes be downright chilling.

Overall, MOUTHFUL OF BIRDS is elusive yet enticing, with some stories blunter than others. It is a ferocious triumph of a short story collection --- dark, magic and true.

Reviewed by Maya Gittelman on January 25, 2019

Mouthful of Birds: Stories
written by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell

  • Publication Date: January 8, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books
  • ISBN-10: 0399184627
  • ISBN-13: 9780399184628