“‘Shark Heart : A Love Story,’ by Emily Habeck

“I’ve never read anything like this book. It’s set in a familiar modern world that’s immediately recognizable – our protagonists have normal jobs, fairly normal angst, fairly normal relationships – except in this reality, it’s a fact that some people develop mutations that cause them to transform irreversibly into other species. (WHAT?!)

“When we meet Lewis and Wren, they’re caught up in their wedding and it isn’t until they get back from their honeymoon that Lewis gets the results from some routine lab work that tell him he’s going to turn into a great white shark within a year. They have to absorb this news and re-envision the life they’d expected and imagined together, even as they’re learning what to expect from the progression of the mutation. Meanwhile, Lewis is still teaching high school drama even as he starts developing scales and eating almost exclusively shrimp.

“There are more pockets of this world opened up to us along the way. No spoilers here, but we get to spend time with multiple characters’ viewpoints, both in their shared lives and their private individual lives and histories. We’re shown how very recognizable government and medical systems handle these mutations in this world. ‘Shark Heart’ does what I suppose the best surrealism does – the fantastical elements feel utterly real and seamlessly normal until you catch yourself on the glide and are jarred by the distance from the reality we know. It made the feeling of familiarity and foreignness unpredictable, and it’s stuck with me vividly since. Highly recommend it.

“Just as an aside, it did strike me that it could be read as a cancer book, or other definitely life-changing diagnoses book. I could imagine having a pretty rich book club conversation about that, and about the distinctions (or parallels) between our world’s diagnoses and the book’s world of ultimately random mutations.” — LEAH COOK, community artist from Grand Isle

Mainers, please email to tell us about the book on your bedside table. In a paragraph or two, describe the book and be sure to tell us what drew you to it. What makes it a can’t-miss read for the rest of us? For readers, the long, dark nights equal the cozy reading season: We want to hear what you are reading now and why. We’re asking Mainers we know love to read, looking for both repeat recommenders and those of you who just want to tell us about one good book. Send your selection to pgrodinsky@pressherald.com, and we may use it as a future Bedside Table.

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