Two people are in a hospital. Amanda is feverish and believes she is near death. David is a boy who is not her son. David is pushing her to recount the events that led up to her illness.
She tells a story of her family and his. It begins as an innocent holiday friendship but has a sinister undertone. David’s mother tells Amanda that her son fell ill before they met, apparently due to exposure to something in the environment. She is convinced that she lost his soul when his body recovered, that this was a bargain she made with a healer.
The tension builds as the story unfolds in a long, breathless narrative (it’s a short novel, but conversely one very long chapter). As she tells the story, David pushes her to remember certain incidents, while dismissing others which she wants to pursue.
I read on, intrigued at first, then a little impatient, but anticipating that there would be clues and allusions to the meaning of the narrative. Is the story chronological? What is hallucinated and what real? Where is David’s mother and Amanda’s daughter?
Then I got to the end and it just sort of – well, ended. And I’m deflated. Am I being dense? Did I miss something? I didn’t expect a neat resolution tied with a bow, but I thought that there would be insights and inferences, ideas which would resonate and send me back through the key scenes to interpret them anew. Now I’m not sure what the themes of the book are, apart from ‘pesticides are bad’ and ‘parenting is scary’.
Perhaps my expectations were too high. Fever Dream is innovative in its form and beautifully written (and translated) but I feel like I wanted something more.
I received a copy of Fever Dream from the publisher via Netgalley.
View Fever Dream on Goodreads
Want to know more? Read this interview with Samanta Schweblin on Lithub