The title of Samanta Schweblin’s novel Fever Dream (translated form the Spanish by Megan McDowell) is apt for both the experience of the main character as well as the reader. A woman named Amanda slowly dies in a hospital room, carrying on a conversation with a young boy named David—or perhaps he is yet another hallucination as she relives her final moments. As he repeatedly tells her about various details in the story she tells, “that is not important.”
The story is told entirely through dialogue between the two characters, with most of the narration of previous events told from Amanda’s perspective. Throughout the conversation we learn the plot of the story—however it would do the book no justice to offer a summary here, as Schweblin manages to make the reader’s piecing together the plot part of the plot. The actual events aren’t as important as the understanding of the events, or at least to the extent in which Amanda tries to grasp their meaning right before she dies.
The book is best read in one sitting, and then if you can stomach the psychological trauma of the characters and depictions of poisoned children, re-read. It’s an unusual book and carries a lot of weight but isn’t undecipherable. The book feels like a dire thought experiment and should gain the respect of anybody who reads it, but it will most serve anybody who’s looking for something different.