Animal Truth and Other Stories

In Animal Truth and Other Stories, poet, novelist and short story writer Sharona Muir (Invisible Beasts) offers six spellbinding eco-fablist stories. In "Bedcrumbs," a nameless narrator meditates on the nearly invisible biological minutia that connect us all. "The Bath of Venus" finds a wealthy time-traveler in the deep past, making an unexpected connection with a creature of an unknown species. And in the titular "Animal Truth"--more novella than short story--a scientist on the brink of a discovery about a rare fish takes a closer look at her past and what is expected of mothers. The collection's standout story proves to be "Menu: Extinction," in which an experimental artist becomes obsessed with the strange smell his pregnant wife is emitting while he works on a disturbing new exhibit.

While Muir's handling of this material can be whimsical and playfully eccentric, Animal Truth more frequently embraces the moments when the mythical or mystical qualities of her creations illuminate the bittersweet or even chilling elements of the world or a character's psyche. The horror of "Menu: Extinction," for example, is a gradual, creeping kind of dis-ease that, like the "pungent aromatics" of the artist's wife, lingers throughout the story before washing over the reader in force at its end. Meanwhile, the "burbling tanks" of Jo's specimens in "Animal Truth" echo the "sadness [sighing] louder than usual in the eaves of her mind," allowing her experience of pregnancy and birth to become aligned with the aquatic sensation of deep submersion. By the end of Muir's collection, readers, too, will feel submerged in an unfamiliar world that uncannily resonates with their own. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

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