Mouthful of Birds, Samantha Schweblin
Reminiscent of the magical realism of Isabel Allende or Gabo, Schweblin’s collection of short stories is both surprising and strange; the element of grotesqueness interwoven with poignant observations about social issues gave me chills on more than one occasion. Schweblin often uses animalistic features in her characters that shock other characters as well as the reader, but which are considered natural by the characters themselves, such as the story that gives name, which although at first stuns both of her parents, then shows how one parent adapts and the other simply does not/cannot. Some of the stories are as short as two pages, and others are as long as 20, and I can’t write about this book without mentioning that my favorite story from the collection was the first—if you know me and have also read the story, this will come as no surprise.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh
I was intrigued by the title of this book and it turned out to be really different from any expectations I may have had. The unnamed narrator, emotionally exhausted and traumatized from the death of both her parents and frenetic New York society, decides she wants to take a year to have a medically induced sleep, which she believes will rejuvenate and restore her, helping her to make a completely new life for herself. During this period, she is truly terrible to her one and only friend, and the reader can see her barely hidden suffering behind her despondent thoughts. The book ends as she simultaneously comes out of her months-long slumber and 9/11 happens, which lead to an improved state of mind that is frankly not believable—it leaves the reader to imagine how long it will actually last, and in a strange turn, makes a good proposal regarding the importance of going to therapy to deal with your trauma instead of trying to wish it away with medically prescribed sleeping pills.