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Fever Dream
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2018 TOB Shortlist Books > Fever Dream

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1655 comments so let's talk about it....


Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments A week after finishing Fever Dream, I barely remembered it. At this point, it's a giant blank spot.


message 3: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1655 comments I mostly remembered a feeling of being creeped out and tying that to weird mommy-brain. It hit me well because I read weird intense stuff (AreaX Trilogy e.g.) when I was nursing and up at all hours of the night a.k.a. sleep deprived a few years ago and remember feeling so unhinged and disembodied while entangled at the same time. The mother reminded me of that feeling and I had to shake it off again.


Amanda (tnbooklover) | 1 comments I liked this but I’m not sure I ever really fully understood what was going on and I also don’t remember that much about it now.


Gaby | 29 comments It was a weird, unconventional, fast read, limited characters and unlike anything I have read before, which are all positives Imo. I enjoyed it, however did not give it 5 stars but would recommend it.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments I usually just cannot with books that feature imperilled children, so I avoided this in the summer. But it was one of the few shortlist books immediately available from the library, so I tried just a few pages last night -- and read obsessively and finished it just ten minutes ago. What an amazing ride! I do not have anything coherent to say about it yet, except that I am glad I read it, and as Amy said above, it is very evocative of a particular emotional state that I was also in right after my daughter was born.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments All right, I have found words, so I am going to throw a lot of thoughts out and see which ones catch anyone's interest. Spoilers will abound!

First of all: The 'rescue distance' -- Amanda has hers with Nina, Carla has lost hers with David, because in deciding to take him to the curandera she gives up on the belief that this child is her son. And as we see towards the end, a lot of other parents in the town seem to have done the same, sending the kids to the "waiting room" all day -- which is why the mother Amanda meets at House & Home (who responds immediately to her child's sounds) is so significant, and yet by the end her daughter is also going to the "waiting room". Is it a sign that she's given up on her daughter as well, or a sign that actually these children are still cherished? Amanda says she couldn't cope if this had happened to her daughter, which of course it does by the end, but Amanda is dead by then -- or is she really? Is she just, in fact, refusing to cope, unable to find the strength because the rope between her and Nina has broken with her understanding that her daughter is permanently changed by exposure to these chemicals?

Secondly: It is easy to mock Carla and the others for going to the curandera & believing in the transmigration of souls, but I think the book does a fantastic job of conveying the way that these kinds of environmental changes are both terrifying and ungrounding. If the water can be poisonous, if the land you've lived on for generations is now barren, if the barrels they send you to help grow your crops are full of something that can kill your children, if horses and ducks and dogs die overnight, why not the transmigration of souls?

Finally: I think the bit at the end with the husbands is vital, because while they wish there was "someone to ask" about what is happening, they don't do anything other than wish to ask about it. All through the story David talks about the need to find the important thing, and at the end it is made clear that these men who have so far survived cannot see it, cannot see that the rope which connects us to the earth has gone slack -- there is no more rescue distance, we have given up on it & it has given up on us.

What a book. Thoughts?


Gwendolyn | 159 comments I read this last summer as part of the summer rounds, and I found the first half of the novel to be unbelievably unsettling. As the parent of two young kids, I was almost physically ill with anxiety after reading the first half. I recall losing some of that feeling in the second half of the book when it got stranger and stranger, pretty much starting with the visit to the curandera. As the book moved farther away from a recognizable reality, it lost its impact a bit. I still loved the book, but it became less personal to me. I agree with your interesting point, Bryn, about the fathers. I hadn’t picked up on that, but I think it’s an important point.


Jason Perdue | 596 comments I came here to ask an embarrassing question about this book and saw the first four comments and, well, no longer embarrassed. I've listened to the first 15 mins of this book 3 times. Is this a story? a story of someone telling a story? a memory of someone telling a story? who's talking? I'm thinking audio isn't the best method to get into this one.


message 10: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1655 comments Jason wrote: "I came here to ask an embarrassing question about this book and saw the first four comments and, well, no longer embarrassed. I've listened to the first 15 mins of this book 3 times. Is this a stor..."

oh goodness, I can't imagine this working in audio! this is sort of an 'outloud' flashback with commentary (like you're watching a movie w/the sound present but muted while the director and key actor adds commentary - but meanwhile something is happening in the recording studio and the commentators are in danger)


message 11: by Lola (last edited Jan 05, 2018 03:54PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lola | 118 comments I was a big fan of this book. It just felt so weird and creepy and really transported me (where, I don't know...but somewhere....) while I was reading it. I read this rather close to reading The Transmigration of Bodies (which I loved) and it turned out to be a fabulous pairing.


Katie (katalia) | 8 comments This book was so stressful for me and such a surreal experience. I felt the title clicked really well with the content ... the whole book was the type of dream you have when you’re sick where you can’t really distinguish dream from reality and just wake up going “WTF?!”


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 601 comments When we read and discussed this book in the NLF group, one detail came out that helped me understand it better. Apparently, and this was found in interviews with the author, in Argentina, the issue of pollution is a known and pervasive one. So in cases where some of the scenes are puzzling or mysterious to USA readers, in Argentina the readers got the references immediately. I have to admit that almost made me like the book more (I only gave it 3 stars because I felt like it was almost saying something but maybe silently screaming) because I saw maybe she was being more subversive then just illusive.


message 14: by Lljones (new) - added it

Lljones | 172 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "When we read and discussed this book in the NLF group, one detail came out that helped me understand it better. Apparently, and this was found in interviews with the author, in Argentina, the issue..."

What is the NLF group?


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 601 comments Lljones wrote: "Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "When we read and discussed this book in the NLF group, one detail came out that helped me understand it better. Apparently, and this was found in interviews with the au..."
Newest Literary Fiction. I think we had it as a buddy read.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "Apparently, and this was found in interviews with the author, in Argentina, the issue of pollution is a known and pervasive one. So in cases where some of the scenes are puzzling or mysterious to USA readers, in Argentina the readers got the references immediately."

Yes, this is one book in which I rather wish the translator had included notes, even at the end -- because Schweblin is writing about something that is a real concrete issue, but I think many US readers come away from the book not realising that it is akin to a fictional Silent Spring.


Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments I see I'm not (by a long shot) the only parent here who resonated instantly with the concept of a 'rescue distance'

That phrase! how immediately and intensely it rang true, and how even now that my kids are 18 & 22 I *still* have a rescue distance for them, and how it gave a voice to something so visceral and therefore so tenuous, so endangered.

As soon as Schweblin defined it, the book had a musical score, and that score was all long notes on the violin, and the promise that soon the music would screech and snap off.


Isabella Kratynski | 3 comments Jason wrote: "I came here to ask an embarrassing question about this book and saw the first four comments and, well, no longer embarrassed. I've listened to the first 15 mins of this book 3 times. Is this a stor..."

I can't imagine this in audio. In case you haven't seen a print copy, it's set up as a dialogue, with David prompting the conversation, set in italics, and Amanda responding. The prompts sometimes have the feel of a therapy session, other times more like an interrogation. I can't recall how far in it is before we know it's David, but it says so on the book jacket.


Isabella Kratynski | 3 comments I really liked this book. It totally reads like a Fever Dream but the Spanish title is Distancia de rescate. I'd love to hear the rationale for the title choice; I think it affected how I perceived the book.

The rescue distance is very relatable, but maybe because my daughter has survived into her teenage years, this aspect didn't freak me out the way I imagine it would've if I'd read it when she was a small child.

It's the transmigration thing that creeped me out -- with the dirty hands and the mud. How is it (is it?) connected to the poisoning of the earth/water? Can we be sure anyone is who they appear to be?

The pacing, the urgency of it all, is exquisite. I still don't understand what happened. What's "the important thing" David is pushing Amanda toward?


message 20: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1655 comments Isabella wrote: "I really liked this book. It totally reads like a Fever Dream but the Spanish title is Distancia de rescate. I'd love to hear the rationale for the title choice; I think it affected how I perceived...It's the transmigration thing that creeped me out -- with the dirty hands and the mud. How is it (is it?) connected to the poisoning of the earth/water? Can we be sure anyone is who they appear to be?"
So interesting that the original title had to do with the Rescue Distance... I'm not sure if that would have been overkill or not for me.
A couple of months ago, my niece returned from playing in a creek in Peru with giardia which was quickly spread to all the youngest members of the family. How strange and unsettling to have something simple and innocent like playing outdoors become a hazard. I suspect that is part of what David is pushing at... that something is very wrong when our environment is harmful to us. But honestly, I'm not sure. It might also be him trying to get Amanda to understand her own personal mind-body status.


message 21: by Bryn (Plus Others) (last edited Jan 09, 2018 10:33AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments Isabella wrote: "It's the transmigration thing that creeped me out -- with the dirty hands and the mud. How is it (is it?) connected to the poisoning of the earth/water? Can we be sure anyone is who they appear to be?

I read the transmigration as a sort of ritualistic way for the people whose children are being poisoned by the pesticides to cope. It gives them a sort of hope, in that they can believe their 'real' children are well & happy somewhere else in the world, and then the disabilities can be explained as a result of the 'new soul' -- and further they are off the hook for parenting their disabled children as these are not *really* their children any more but something other which they are not truly responsible for. It makes a strong sort of sense to me but it is heart-breaking.

Isabella wrote: The pacing, the urgency of it all, is exquisite. I still don't understand what happened. What's "the important thing" David is pushing Amanda toward? "

I think the 'important thing' is the realisation in the final paragraph of the book -- the rope between people and the earth has gone slack, and so rather than the tie which is between a mother and a child, it is a fuse burning towards disaster. (I would quote the paragraph but the book went back to the library.)


Gwendolyn | 159 comments Isabella, I like your interpretation of the transmigration. That brings the book a bit closer to reality, a bit closer to something I can understand and relate to. It is a heartbreaking idea.


Janet (justjanet) | 634 comments All of your comments are very interesting. As someone who listens to a lot of audio, I agree that this would have been terrible in audio...unfortunately, I usually make those decisions uninformed. So glad I got the flip of the coin right on this one.

I read this as a straight up horror novel. Now that you all are pointing out the environmental angles, I see them and it is indeed a timely topic.

"Rescue distance" really did not resonate with me. My sons are grown men but even when they were younger I was not one of those mothers that stayed up worrying all night. I've always believed that if something is going to happen, it will happen with or without me.

The "transmigration" was the horror part for me. I believed this was really happening....that the children's souls were combining to dilute the poison if you will. And at the end when David gets into Nina's father's car, I was convinced that David did so because he was partly Nina. I guess I'll never know if this is what the author intended.

One of the difficulties with work in translation, you never know how much of the ambiguity is the author and how much the translator.


message 24: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan Fields | 77 comments I read this book today and, while generally following the story, didn’t really get what the author was trying to say. Just reading this thread has given me a deeper understanding or appreciation for aspects of the book I missed or glossed over. For that, I thank you all!


David | 10 comments I also read it today and agree with Janet: David was partly Nina in the end. He was seated cross-legged and buckled in the backseat with the stuffed mole by his side (Nina's mannerisms). Carla had repeatedly talked about wanting a child just like Nina in the aftermath of David's transformation into someone she couldn't love. I felt it was clear that she took Nina to the green house specifically to help improve David rather than to save Nina.


Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments Well said, David! I definitely think that straightforward horror aspect was meant to be there, regardless of the deeper message. I hadn't thought about the funneling of Nina into David being deliberate though, yikes!


Gwendolyn | 159 comments David, I agree. I remember noticing Nina’s mannerisms in David in the scene in the car...creepy.


Michelle | 155 comments I've had to revisit this one. I just couldn't get it out of my head. So after reading your thoughts and going over Schweblin's interviews I have decided to change my rating from a 4 to a 5. Any book that haunts you like that! Well what can I say?

You can find my review here:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Jessica (jessicaxmaria) | 27 comments I've been in this group for a couple of years and finally decided to join in on the fun and try to read this shortlist before March.

I've started with Fever Dream, and I absolutely loved this book. It was so unsettling and made me think of the rescue distance constantly while I read it as my 2 year old slept in the room next to mine. Right now I'm at work and the rescue distance is far too long; this book's feelings of anxiety is pervasive long after it's over. I feel like it's also ambiguous enough to create anxiety for different reasons for another reader.


Paige (paigeawesome) | 14 comments Bryn, I really like your comments in this thread and I agree that interpreting it from an environmental angle causes the whole thing to make a lot more sense for me. That whole part went right over my head. There was a part near the end, with the soya fields, where I was like, "I feel like maybe this means something," but I didn't know what. I kind of approached this book like it was just horror / magical realism / weird fiction (a la Jeff VanderMeer) / creepy story, and I was just kinda like meh--I like creepy and weird and unresolved stories, but it just felt like it didn't have enough internal consistency to actually mean anything and so the creepiness did not feel very effective to me (although it had a couple moments).

When you bring up pesticides, it takes on a whole different tone, and actually a much more personal one. Several years back, I started getting these horrible, debilitating migraine headaches that made me puke any time I tried to move and the pain was otherworldly and the illness intense. They started happening within a couple weeks of moving right next to the orchards. There was so much going on at that time that it could have been completely coincidental, but I wonder, and my family wonders, if there was a connection at all between the constant and (somewhat) extreme exposure to pesticides and the headaches. So on that level, asking, when is the exact moment? What exactly caused this? ...I've spent a lot of time wondering that too, and there is no answer; it may have been the pesticides, or it may have been the stress of many different things in my life hitting me all at once, or it may have been an underlying health problem, or it may have just been something hereditary that suddenly manifested itself in me (other people in my family get migraines, too); it may have been any of those things in combination with the chemicals. The ecological horror/tragedy aspect of the book makes it better, in my opinion, but since that was not actually clear to me at any time during the reading, I think my "it's okay" rating is going to stand. :\ Maybe I'll put it up to three stars in a week or two, once it's had time to settle, because it does feel kind of unfair to grade it down on something that the author's original audience would have immediately clicked with.

David wrote: "I also read it today and agree with Janet: David was partly Nina in the end. He was seated cross-legged and buckled in the backseat with the stuffed mole by his side (Nina's mannerisms). Carla had repeatedly talked about wanting a child just like Nina in the aftermath of David's transformation into someone she couldn't love. I felt it was clear that she took Nina to the green house specifically to help improve David rather than to save Nina. "

I think so too. Maybe the second time she mentions how much she likes Nina, I was thinking, dude she's gonna steal your kid. And then when she's putting them in the car, I thought Carla was gonna dump Amanda somewhere and make off with Nina. I was really suspicious of Carla the whole time, though.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments Paige, I'm really glad you enjoyed my comments! Your migraines sound absolutely terrible; I'm so sorry that happened to you.

The more I think about this book the more I admire the way that it reads on both levels at once; there are barrels of pesticides leaking in a farmyard and Carla has Amanda bring Nina there and they sit down in the wetness and are poisoned -- and simultaneously I think Carla really does believe that David's soul is elsewhere and that whatever is happening in the village is somehow supernatural and that she can take some kind of action to help him, even at Nina's expense. I think that double vision is very, very human and it is not something I see in fiction very often.


message 32: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1655 comments I’m sort of itching to go read Annihilation again before the movie comes out because I viscerally felt so much anxiety and alienation from that series when I was reading it burrowed into my psyche. This book has all these pieces of rational explanation available to the events told alongside horror and discombobulation when those events are made personal. They feel like they’re on the same bookshelf in my brain.


Paige (paigeawesome) | 14 comments Amy wrote: "I’m sort of itching to go read Annihilation again before the movie comes out because I viscerally felt so much anxiety and alienation from that series when I was reading it burrowed into my psyche...."

I think it's similar to Annihilation too, although I LOVED that book, whereas this one didn't work quite as well for me. I felt Annihilation was more successfully creepy and disorienting and therefore enjoyable (to me), whereas this one was just more frustrating (and it's hard to know if that's in the original or the translation). I've got this one from the library for another two weeks so I might try a reread while holding in my mind the ecological angle in my mind, which might improve it for me; I just felt kind of disappointed reading it because it felt too all over the place and like it didn't really know what it wanted to do.


message 34: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric | 90 comments I started this as an audio, but I think I need to go back and read it. With the audio it wasn't clear who was speaking to whom.


Ellen H | 741 comments I read it a long time ago, but if my memory serves me correctly, reading it on paper may not clear that up for you. (Unlike most people here, I did not care for this book at all.)


Janet (justjanet) | 634 comments I do think this one is better in print.


message 37: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric | 90 comments I stuck with the audio and got over the hump, now that I realize "you" is David and "your mother" is Carla. Now I'm totally in suspense.


Tristan | 102 comments Perhaps you have to be a parent to get this book. Not having any children I didn't pick up on any of the suspense related to the rescue distance until I read these comments. I'm still not entirely certain I have any idea what happened.

I didn't like Lincoln in the Bardo much, so I expected to be pulling for Fever Dream in the tournament. LITB was better than this.


Bretnie | 441 comments I loved this book. I appreciate people’s interpretations of it since it gives me even more to think about.

I don’t know how to compare this book against others since it’s such a different one, but I loved the mystery of it, the frantic pace, creepy David and creepier Carla. The environmental interpretation makes a lot of sense, but I love that there are still so many unanswered questions. And the unsettling ending. Oof. I can’t stop thinking about this book even after finishing another one in the meantime!


message 40: by Bob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bob Lopez | 358 comments Interesting interview with the author: https://lithub.com/samanta-schweblin-...


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