What We Fed to the Manticore by Talia Lakshmi Kolluri [in Booklist]
While novels told from an animal’s point of view are that unusual, an entire story collection with non-human narrators seems rare. Even more striking is the stupendous quality of Talia Lakshmi Kolluri’s breathtaking debut. Deep bonds define Kolluri’s heart-pulling protagonists, who too often face relentless man-made destruction.
In “The Good Donkey,” two emaciated lions befriend a donkey reluctantly posing as a zebra in a makeshift, shell-shocked Palestinian zoo. A white bear and a fox have only each other in “The Dog Star Is the Brightest Star in the Sky” as their frozen habitat disappears. A mother wolf with four pups who’s desperately searching for her brother won’t survive her first encounter with a truck and gun in “A Level of Tolerance.”
Oversize vessels endanger migrating whales in “The Open Ocean Is an Endless Desert.” A pigeon is seriously injured by glass-encrusted kite string in “Let Your Body Meet the Ground.” In the collection’s most (tear-inducingly) remarkable “May God Forever Bless the Rhino Keepers,” a hound sacrifices his own safety to save his youthful charge.
In her must-read author’s note pondering the wild and tame (how much perspective matters!), Kolluri explains, “I dissolved the distance in my mind between myself and the wild world, which helped me understand that the story of my life includes the story of all the life that surrounds us.” She deftly gifts that transforming empathy to readers.
Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, August 2022