cover image Mouthful of Birds

Mouthful of Birds

Samanta Schweblin, trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell. Riverhead, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-399-18462-8

Schweblin (Fever Dream) once again deploys a heavy dose of nightmare fuel in this frightening, addictive collection. In “Headlights,” Felicity, a just-married woman whose husband has abandoned her by the side of the road, hears and senses an approaching swarm of jilted women in the pitch black fields around her (“The laughter is closer now; it completely drowns out the crying”). “Preserves” is about a married couple expecting their first child and deciding to alter nature’s course. In the title story, two parents try to figure out what to do about their young daughter, who has started eating live birds. In “Underground,” the children in a small mining town dig a massive hole and suddenly disappear, and when their parents go looking for them, they find the hole filled in—and empty when they dig it up again. “The Heavy Suitcase of Benavides” follows a man who thinks that he has killed his wife and stuffed her in a suitcase. When he visits his doctor to confess, his doctor responds to the news unexpectedly, leading to a startling ending. Schweblin has a knack for leaving things unsaid: by zeroing in on her characters and settings to an uncomfortably close degree and only hinting at what’s at the edges of the perspective, she achieves a constant sense of dread. Schweblin’s stories are canny, provocative, and profoundly unsettling. (Jan.)