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Review: Mouthful of Birds

2/5 stars

Mouthful of Birds: Stories, by Samanta Schweblin (2009)

Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell (2019)

Last year I read Schweblin's novel, Little Eyes (see my 4-star review here), and really enjoyed her peculiar and haunting storytelling.


Unfortunately, I think her style works a lot better in long form than in this collection of short stories (for me, anyway). Schweblin brings the same eerie and unexpected characters and stories to this book, but I kept feeling like they were all unfinished outlines of stories that could be much more. That said, I'm willing to admit this may just be my inexperience with reading short story collections. Every time I've done so, I end up feeling dissatisfied. Maybe there's a different way I could approach it? Or else short stories just aren't my thing.


As with any collection, some stories hit harder than others. In keeping with my preference for her novel, I liked the longer stories (at most about 10 pages) more than the super short 2-pagers.


The stories are fantastical, sometimes scary and creepy, and always strange. They often start out with what seems like a normal occurrence (parents chatting outside a school while they wait to pick up their kids) only to morph into something unnatural (the butterfly you just crushed beneath your foot was actually your kid coming out of school). I think this collection could be great for a book club or a class - because I get the sense that Schweblin often creates metaphorical horrors that attempt to mirror real-world problems, and that would be fun to unpack.

 

Just finished re-reading The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, but I don't think I'm going to review it... everyone knows it's great. Though, of course, it proved to be much more complex than the movie (which I remembered far better than the book).


UP NEXT: Fifty Words for Rain, by Asha Lemmie




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