Bestiary by K-Ming Chang
Categories: Literary Fiction, LGBTQIA+, Magical Realism
First Publication Date: February 4th 2021
I received an advance copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Bestiary tells the story of three generations of women of the same family, their history of violence, magic, love and queerness. On the surface, Bestiary is everything I love in a book: a family saga, poetic writing, magical realism, and Sapphic main characters are always a plus, but in the end I had mixed feelings about this book. I ended up giving it three stars but that doesn’t mean I thought it was a meh book. Rather, it was beautiful, brilliantly, viscerally written and just whimsical enough to make it unique but not over-the-top… but sometimes I was so annoyed with it. While very lovely, the writing is also very crude and frankly, gross. I have never read a book that mentions farts, anuses and penises /mostly as metaphors) so much before, and it’s the kind of thing I don’t really like reading, I guess it offends my delicate sensibilities. For example:
“When my mother farts in her sleep, I shape the steam with my hands and release it outside as fog.”
If you don’t mind reading quotes like that all the time, then you will probably like this book. The pacing of the book also threw me off a bit, and I felt that this was much longer than 280 pages. I had to force myself to finish reading it and, while I did really like the ending and several aspects of the book, it still felt like a chore to read it. This will be a brilliant read for some readers, but I suspect its writing style will not work for many – Bestiary is more of a feeling than a proper story.