Reviewed by Karisma J. Tobin
Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream tells the haunting story of a mother’s experience of an unfamiliar town. Vacationing with her young daughter, Nina, Amanda finds herself unsettled. It soon becomes clear that there is something strange about this place.
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 come into being (2).
As Amanda recalls—a woman in a gold bathing suit, shoes thrown to the bottom of a pool, a prize horse mysteriously poisoned, a mystic healer-woman in a green house—David guides the conversation, insisting that they are running out of time, that they must find the worms. As each new question comes to light, a sense of unease burrows further under the reader’s skin, and we wonder with increasing urgency: Where is Nina?
“When my David was born, he was the light of my life, he was my sun [ . . . ] The first time they put him in my arms, I was so anxious [ . . . ] I swear, until I counted all ten of his fingers twice, I wasn’t convinced everything had turned out all right” (9).
Fever Dream is a story about mothers, about the fear and anxiety they feel for their children, about the ways they try to understand and cope with these feelings, the sense that it might already be too late.
“My mother always said something bad would happen. My mother was sure that sooner or later something bad would happen, and now I can see it with total clarity, I can feel it coming toward us like a tangible fate, irreversible. Now there’s almost no rescue distance, the rope is so short I can bare walk” (76).
Mysterious and suspenseful as it may be, Fever Dream is not a mystery. It is an exploration of the depths and kinds of motherhood, a questioning of the boundaries of the single, human soul, an acknowledgement and calling-out of ecoterrorism.
About Karisma J. Tobin
Karisma J. Tobin is an MFA candidate at Sam Houston State University. Her work appears in THAT Literary Review (forthcoming), Beacon, and Leonardo.