Published by Riverhead on January 10th 2017
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From the bed in a clinic where she lies dying, Amanda rests beside a boy who is not hers and pushes her to tell a story. In an effort to piece together the events that led to her illness, Amanda reaches into her memory and tells the boy her recollections of a day she spent with his mother.
“It’s the boy who’s talking, murmuring into my ear.
I am the one asking questions.
Worms in the body?
Yes, in the body.
No, another kind of worms.
It’s dark and I can’t see. The sheets are rough, they bunch up under my body. I can’t move, but I’m talking.
It’s the worms. You have to be patient and wait. And while we wait, we have to find the exact moment when the worms came into being.”
In a nod to its perfectly apt title, I devoured Fever Dream in a delirious few hours and turned it over to start again when I was finished. At just 192 pages, Samanta Schweblin’s newly translated debut reads like a single breath, leaving no room to stop turning the pages. Though the structure of the narrative is tricky to parse out at first, with the characters’ narration noted in different fonts, once it becomes clear who is speaking the story takes off and refuses to let go.
It is dreamlike and odd and absolutely cloaked in a sense of dread. While Amanda tells the boy, David, the story of his mother, he pressures her to reach the points he hopes to hear with relentless prodding. It gives the novel a deeper sense of urgency, while also adding to its increasingly weird mood. What is important? Why is Amanda wasting time? What’s with the worms? HURRY UP.
I would read nothing but suspense if this surreal trip was the kind of literary suspense regularly being published. While it’s certainly not for everyone, readers who love the chaotic feeling of not knowing (think The Beautiful Bureaucrat), even in the end, need to run and grab a copy of Fever Dream as soon as possible.