Fever Dream by Samantha Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell [in Library Journal]
Samantha Schweblin, who is Buenos Aires-born and now lives in Berlin, makes her English-language novel debut, thanks to McDowell’s crisp translation. Worms, migrating souls, unseen toxins, and deformed children punctuate a mysterious dialog between Amanda, a dying woman in an emergency clinic, and David, a boy not her son. The print version uses italics to distinguish David’s part of the conversation from Amanda’s; here, veteran narrator Hillary Huber impressively, instantly, adapts her voice as necessary.
Amanda and David take turns reconstructing an elliptical recent past that begins “a few days ago” when Amanda met David’s mother, Carla, at a lake house. Amanda adds another narrative layer, sharing Carla’s story from six years previous when David fell devastatingly ill after drinking from a poisoned stream. Saving his body cleaves his soul, the consequences of which lead inexplicably to Amanda’s daughter Nina.
Verdict: Part unreliable nightmare, part dysfunctional confession, part eco-parable, Schweblin’s slim title should prove irresistible to contemporary world literature aficionados.