Fifty Beasts To Break Your Heart

Books on Tape. Feb. 2024. 6:46 hrs. ISBN 9780593821701. $66.50. FANTASY
While the audiobook for Nethercott’s (Thistlefoot) short story collection lacks the illustrations of the titular story, it doesn’t lack any of the emotional nuance. With five narrators, a range of human experience is compellingly explored in a magical if often surreal way. Nethercott takes some of the most challengingly formatted stories—a bestiary, a calendar, and an abecedarian of divinatory practices—and makes them utterly gripping. Narrator January LaVoy stands out for the gentle menace she adds to “The War of Fog” and “Dear Henrietta,” as well as the wearier, harsher menace the world inflicts on the undeserving in “The Plums at the End of the World.” Gabra Zackman, Max Meyers, and Elena Rey round out the collection, voicing lost love, doomed love, consuming love, and painful yet fulfilling love. The collection is full of layered explorations of love and its effects, as well as foxes, transformation, and lingering memory. There is an ache at the center of these stories, underneath the magic. But perhaps it’s the ache felt at the start of the healing process.
VERDICT An alluring exploration of relationships through a fantastical lens that may appeal to those who enjoyed Cassandra Khaw’s The Salt Grows Heavy or Kelly Barnhill’s The Crane Husband.
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