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Reviews of What We Fed to the Manticore by Talia Kolluri

What We Fed to the Manticore

by Talia Lakshmi Kolluri

What We Fed to the Manticore by Talia Lakshmi Kolluri X
What We Fed to the Manticore by Talia Lakshmi Kolluri
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    Sep 2022, 200 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Katharine Blatchford
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About this Book

Book Summary

In nine stories that span the globe, What We Fed to the Manticore takes readers inside the minds of a full cast of animal narrators to understand the triumphs, heartbreaks, and complexities of the creatures that share our world.

Through nine emotionally vivid stories, all narrated from animal perspectives, Talia Lakshmi Kolluri's debut collection explores themes of environmentalism, conservation, identity, belonging, loss, and family with resounding heart and deep tenderness. In Kolluri's pages, a faithful hound mourns the loss of the endangered rhino he swore to protect. Vultures seek meaning as they attend to the antelope that perished in Central Asia. A beloved donkey's loyalty to a zookeeper in Gaza is put to the ultimate test. And a wounded pigeon in Delhi finds an unlikely friend.

In striking, immersive detail against the backdrop of an ever-changing international landscape, What We Fed to the Manticore speaks to the fears and joys of the creatures we share our world with, and ultimately places the reader under the rich canopy of the tree of life.

The Good Donkey

I am not pleased. Paint is dripping down my hoof and the colors are muddled together. I shouldn't complain. I agreed to it, of course.

Hafiz is putting together a zoo. And he asked me to be the zebra.

"You're a very good donkey, habibi," he told me three days ago, "but the border is closed, and everyone says prices for using the smuggling tunnels have gone up. I can't afford the zebra in Damascus, and the one in Cairo is twice that price." He gestured wildly, scattering my oats. What a waste.

I don't know much about borders, but I would do anything for Hafiz. He is more than a father to me.

And so here I am, Hafiz painting me in black and white stripes. He has hung two torches from the ceiling with strings, to use when the power is cut, and the one above me swings gently, pitching its light back and forth and making me dizzy. Hafiz has stopped in the middle, and knowing him, the paint will dry unevenly and I will look awful. And then what kind of zebra will I be?

We ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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Perhaps the most compelling part of these stories is how the author has developed the worldviews of the various characters. She brings a feeling not just of their reaction to the current moment, but also of how their species and lives have shaped their understanding of events. Each of the animals has a distinct sense of history and culture. The creation myth of polar bears, the romances of whales and the social customs of sled dogs are all vibrantly brought to life. There is a tradeoff, however. These stories immerse the reader in the question of how other species see the world. They are, as a result, very character-driven, and readers who prefer a focus on events and clear resolution of plots may find them unsatisfying...continued

Full Review (558 words)

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(Reviewed by Katharine Blatchford).

Media Reviews

Chicago Review of Books
Set to take its rightful place among some of the best environmental fiction in recent memory.

Booklist (starred review)
Stupendous.... breathtaking.... remarkable.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Exquisite.... exceptional.... This remarkable collection leaves an indelible mark.

Author Blurb Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders
Kolluri delivers a dazzling, daring bestiary brimming over with textured, tender lives. A most magnificent debut!

Author Blurb Ayse Papatya Bucak, author of The Trojan War Museum: and Other Stories
If like me, you fell in love with Fiver and Hazel and Charlotte and Wilbur as a child and have been looking ever since for stories that work that same magic―here they are. This spellbinding collection reminds us that every animal story is a human one, and every human story an animal one. These stories work like incantations.

Author Blurb Claire Comstock-Gay, author of Madame Clairevoyant's Guide to the Stars
What We Fed to the Manticore is a work of incredible imagination and daring, asking us to recognize the inner lives of whales, donkeys and pigeons to be as complex and deep as our own. The stories in this collection are gorgeously written and richly emotionally textured; in Talia Kolluri's hands, the familiar world we live in comes freshly to life. I looked up from the last page to find that my own world―and my heart―had become bigger.

Reader Reviews

owais

Review of what we fed to the manticore
What We Took care of the Manticore is a work of unbelievable creative mind and trying, requesting that we perceive the internal existences of whales, jackasses, and pigeons to be basically as perplexing and profound as our own. The narratives in this...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Animal Domestication

Dog and person hiking togetherIn What We Fed to the Manticore, Talia Lakshmi Kolluri uses short stories to explore humans' relationships with various animals, both wild and domestic. Through domestication, people have artificially selected for traits in animals or plants that are useful or appealing to them, creating species that are genetically distinct from their wild cousins. This process has played a key role in humanity's history; without the development of agriculture made possible by domestication, our modern society could not exist.

In her nine short stories, only one species is a repeat narrator—the dog. Dogs have certainly earned the nickname "man's best friend." Descended from wolves, many believe they were the very first animals to be domesticated,...

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