The White Swallow by Anna Kovatcheva. Los Angeles, California: Gold Line Press, 2015. 52 pages. $10.00, paper.
Anna Kovatcheva’s The White Swallow was the winner of the 2014 Gold Line Press Fiction Chapbook Competition. Broken into five sections, The White Swallow explores the complexities of fulfilling expectations and the sacrifices one makes to take care of others. The forbidden love surrounding two young girls suffers both external and internal complications as the two try to navigate their unsatisfying world. In the story, the healing bird, based off Bulgarian folklore, brings both life and destruction.
Kovatcheva’s language also balances both grace and gore. In the opening section, the swallow burrows into a dead baby; “The bird pecked at the baby’s open ribs, and its small head disappeared inside.” Later, Zina, the girl carrying the bird inside her, tries to heal a cat. The line states, “She heard ribs grind and straighten, heard them knit together. The cat’s ruptured stomach stitched itself whole, skin and fur slide back into place. The lungs reinflated.” However, each gruesome reconstruction is paired with a beautiful song; “She opened her mouth to fill her lungs, and the bird song came. A high trilling, desperate and earnest.” The magical realism adds another layer to the piece rather than distract from the very real horrors of everyday life. While these characters are destined for tragedy, The White Swallow allows for momentary glimpses of hope through beautiful imagery and profound emotion.
-Katie O’Neill, MAR
Katie O’Neill is a second year MFA candidate at Bowling Green State University. She is from Lake Winola, PA.