From Governor General’s Literary Awards finalist Maria Mutch comes a startlingly inventive debut collection that recalls the works of Margaret Atwood, Kelly Link, Karen Russell, and Heather O’Neill.
Wolves talk, notes magically appear on a woman’s skin, Red Riding Hood concocts a clever escape, a peregrine turns into a woman with strange compulsions, and a winged man believed to be a famous musician is discovered stranded on a beach.
These deliciously dark and evocative stories masterfully navigate the blurry line between perception and reality, revolving around metamorphosis and transformation, the dichotomy of absence and presence, and the place of women in the world—how they fit in or don't and how they disappear and reappear in the strangest of ways...
Punctuated with exquisite antique drawings and photographs by the author, When We Were Birds is an intoxicating feat of storytelling that will surprise and delight—leaving you craving more.
"An exhibition of literary eloquence, a tale set in darkness, but filled with light, and a moving debut memoir about maternal love—its beauty and strength, its complications and contradictions, and most importantly, its boundlessness."
"An impressive debut for author Maria Mutch, whose literary memoir maintains that magical balance between lyricism and realism. . . . Very universal and lovely, and utterly worth the read."
“Highly imaginative. . . . quizzical and melancholy . . . eerily au courant.”
"[A] poetic, elegant, and intense account.”
"[A] hopeful story . . . absorbing and creatively rendered.”
“There are moments of heartrending grief, such as when Gabriel says his last words . . . but it's Mutch herself, revealing her struggle to survive as a person, that leaves you astonished.”
“A wholly original debut collection of short fiction [that] deconstructs and reimagines the short story, in much the same way Anne Carson’s work reimagines the possibilities of the poetic form. . . . The collection as a whole is a fierce and often brutal examination of personal transformation, rendered visceral and gorgeous by Mutch’s exceeding talent and focus on the body. . . . Mutch channels the dark arts of Angela Carter, combining elements of gruesome fairy tale, an emphasis on the corporeal and a critical feminist lens on the world. . . . These are stories that thrum with weird, otherworldly power. Reading When We Were Birds is like peering too long into the sun, to the moment your vision blurs and the world takes on a dangerously surreal and mortal beauty.”
"Wise . . . a compassionate picture."
“Mutch’s prose is electric.”
“One of the most idiosyncratic memoirs I’ve ever read. . . . Superb writing and linguistic flair.”
“Promises to bring to mind fable, romance, eroticism and a touch of magical realism—yes please!”
"Intriguing, intelligent, and unsettling in all the best ways, this dazzling debut collection is unlike anything you’ve read before. I wish I’d written this book!"
"A beautiful, singular book, one that someone who’s planning, say, a prolonged stay in a godforsaken place might consider bringing along so they don’t feel quite so alone."
Praise for When We Were Birds:
“A collection of fairy tales for grown-ups. Maria Mutch’s short stories contain a touch of whimsical—but undeniably dark—magic. Think more Grimm folklore than Disney Technicolor. . . . the perfect precursor to drifting into dreamworld.”
“Know the Night appears like an aurora borealis in the book firmament.”
Praise for Know the Night
“You’ll be rewarded with the sense that the self is a miraculous catastrophe. . . . [Know the Night is] riveting, breathtaking.”
"Superb writing and linguistic flair."