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In fierce, textured voices, the women of Ovid's Metamorphoses claim their stories and challenge the power of myth
I am the home of this story. After thousands of years of other people’s tellings, of all these different bridges, of words gotten wrong, I’ll tell it myself.
Seductresses and she-monsters, nymphs and demi-goddesses, populate the famous myths of Ovid's Metamorphoses. But what happens when the story of the chase comes in the voice of the woman fleeing her rape? When the beloved coolly returns the seducer's gaze? When tales of monstrous transfiguration are sung by those transformed? In voices both mythic and modern, Wake, Siren revisits each account of love, loss, rape, revenge, and change. It lays bare the violence that undergirds and lurks in the heart of Ovid’s narratives, stories that helped build and perpetuate the distorted portrayal of women across centuries of art and literature.
Drawing on the rhythms of epic poetry and alt rock, of everyday speech and folk song, of fireside whisperings and therapy sessions, Nina MacLaughlin, the acclaimed author of Hammer Head, recovers what is lost when the stories of women are told and translated by men. She breathes new life into these fraught and well-loved myths.
A Most Anticipated Book of 2019 at Lit Hub
“Old myths translated into bright and glorious colors. I loved this.”
—Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble
“Nina MacLaughlin has done something audacious. She has invited the female characters in Ovid—daughter, mother, sister, wife, widow, queen, nymph, maenad, monster, even the blind seer Tiresias—to sing through her, and now we know how it feels to be stalked by Polyphemus, to be raped by Neptune, to be pregnant with Hercules, to be transformed into a reed, a cow, a fountain, a spider, a constellation. Wake, Siren is a stunning and sustained performance, in language bold and lyrical, direct yet sensual, and loaded with natural beauty.”
—Mary Norris, author of Greek to Me
"Provocative reinterpretations of some very old stories . . . [Nina MacLaughlin] sets herself apart is by focusing on female characters, many of them less well known to a contemporary audience . . . MacLaughlin succeeds in making these stories fresh and distinct by allowing her protagonists to speak in their own voices. This creates stylistic variety across stories, but it also makes a powerful point . . . Some of these stories have distinctly modern touches—Galatea faints at a 7-Eleven because she's been on a fasting cleanse—but these moments only reinforce a sense of timelessness. There have always been men who will not hear when women speak. Vital, vivid, and angry."
—Kirkus, starred review
"MacLaughlin skillfully elevates what could have been merely a writerly exercise, instead composing a chorus of women's justifiable rage echoing down through the millennia."
"Venture back into myth, to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, to hear from the seductresses, the nymphs, and the goddesses. Finally."
—Katie Yee, Lit Hub
“Wake, Siren is by turns sensual and searing, a gorgeous book that completely enthralls its readers. Each page is a revelation, and their combined effect is a stunning and welcomed new perspective on Ovid’s myths. Nina MacLaughlin’s vision approaches clairvoyance and her voice is powerful, provocative, and, at this moment in history, undeniably necessary.”
—Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This
"Wake, Siren is the book I’ve been waiting for since I was ten years old and reading The D’Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. Savage, cheeky, incisively aware of the social-domestic-economical-political thorninesses that prick (and mortally or immortally wound) interactions between power unequals, MacLaughlin opens a pressure valve that’s been sealed shut for centuries. With Wake, Siren, MacLaughlin proves she is a writer of unparalleled versatility, formal daring, and political imagination."
—Heidi Julavits, author of The Folded Clock
“Ever since I first read Ovid’s Metamorphoses, I’ve been waiting to hear from the sirens, goddesses, and nymphs in its pages. Nina MacLaughlin has granted my wish, in electric prose both modern and ancient, giving voice to the victims and villains whose only crime often was being female. Wake, Siren is a must-read for anyone who grew up reading myth but identified with the monsters.”
—Amber Sparks, author of The Unfinished World
“Nina MacLaughlin’s first book taught me how to successfully grade a tile shower floor, and now she’s gone and reimagined Ovid’s mythical women, insinuating the rage of our contemporary moment into stories freshly alive with rumblings of gender and power. Weird, often hilarious, and consistently beautiful, Wake, Siren offers portraits of the likes of Medusa, Callisto, and Sibyl, but above all, it provides a breathless look inside a razor-sharp mind.”
—Kristen Radtke, author of Imagine Wanting Only This
“Wake, Siren is ferocious and fun, full of tenderness and bravado. Nina MacLaughlin's curiosity and imagination will drive you back to ancient texts (or at least to Wikipedia), and make you look at literature differently, imagining what else could be transformed by the voices of women, speaking for themselves.”
—Meaghan O’Connell, author of And Now We Have Everything