(Current fiction & past quality fiction)
Albuquerque bookstores have “Invisible Beasts” (Bellevue Literary Press) by Sharona Muir on order for sale on the novel’s Mid-July release date. As yet, this unique book hasn’t appeared on local library lists.
The publisher, Bellevue Literary Press, continues its brave journey begun in 2007 publishing literary fiction and nonfiction at the ”intersection of the arts and sciences” because its founders believe that science and the humanities are natural companions for understanding the human experience. With each book their goal has been to foster a “rich, interdisciplinary dialogue that will forge new tools for thinking and engaging with the world.”
That’s pretty lofty stuff, but Examiner finds they continue to come up with compelling books to which “Invisible Beasts” is a welcome addition. Their promotional language is pretty compelling, too:
“Sophie is an amateur naturalist with a rare genetic gift: the ability to see a marvelous kingdom of invisible, sentient creatures that share a vital relationship with humankind. To record her observations, Sophie creates a personal bestiary and, as she relates the strange abilities of these endangered beings, her tales become extraordinary meditations on love, sex, evolution, extinction, truth, and self-knowledge.
“In the tradition of E.O. Wilson’s ‘Anthill,’ ‘Invisible Beasts’ is inspiring, philosophical, and richly detailed fiction grounded by scientific fact and a profound insight into nature. The fantastic creations within its pages—an ancient animal that uses natural cold fusion for energy, a species of vampire bat that can hear when their human host is lying, a continent-sized sponge living under the ice of Antarctica—illuminate the role that all living creatures play in the environment and remind us of what we stand to lose if we fail to recognize our entwined destinies.”
Publishers Weekly liked it: “Lines blur between the human and animal worlds in this richly detailed debut from Muir (“The Book of Telling”), which is part fantasy novel, part field guide. Imbued with a rare power to detect animals invisible to all humans except for a few of her family members, amateur naturalist Sophie takes the reader on a tour of nature as she sees it. Arranged like a bird-watching book, but with creatures that even the sharpest of naturalists couldn’t identify, the book is filled with minute details about each species’ origin and habits, along with keen insights on what the beasts have taught her about human nature. Some of the animals depicted, and their interactions with the human world, are humorous (particularly the Wild Rubber Jack, which, as Sophie bluntly states, is ‘an invisible American ass’); others provide insight into Sophie’s character (she faces an existential dilemma over whether or not to reveal the Feral Parfumier Bee’s existence to her biologist sister). In Sophie’s struggles to find her footing in a world only she and a few others can see, Muir expertly pinpoints the frailty of the human condition. This is an amazing feat of imagination.”
Amazon’s review by Anthony Doerr, author of “All the Light We Cannot See” and “The Shell Collector” saw the book this way: “’Invisible Beasts’ is a strange and beautiful meditation on love and seeing, a hybrid of fantasy and field guide, novel and essay, treatise and fable. With one hand it offers a sad commentary on environmental degradation, while with the other it presents a bright, whimsical and funny exploration of what it means to be human. It’s wonderfully-written, crazily-imagined and absolutely original.”
Sharona Muir is the author of “The Book of Telling: Tracing the Secrets of My Father’s Lives.” The recipient of a Hodder Fellowship and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, her writing has appeared in Granta, Orion magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, Paris Review, and elsewhere. She is a Professor of Creative Writing and English at Bowling Green State University. Invisible Beasts is her first novel.
Examiner recommends “Invisible Beasts” because as a first novel you can’t get much better reviews but mostly because Examiner likes what Sharona Muir said about writing:
“Writing is usually awful: you sit in silence, alone, prone to munchies, hunched over in a miserable posture, losing circulation, and staring at tiny black marks with dried-out eyes. But when I wrote ‘Invisible Beasts,’ I laughed all the time. I even laughed in my sleep.”
Examiner figures we need more writers who laugh at themselves in their sleep.