Milk Teeth

Helene Bukowski


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MTO Press
23 November 2023
ISBN: 9781916913011
210 pages

From the publisher

Translated by Jen Calleja

Skalde writes her thoughts on pieces of paper, making new discoveries and revelations and understanding the world that is, and once was, through her mother’s limited library of books. Edith, her mother, prefers the solitude of her room and has begun to interact less and less with her daughter. Their house is full of silence and secrets. Having only ever known life with her mother, Skalde rarely crosses the boundaries of their plot of earth to visit neighbours and she certainly never leaves their zone. Skalde has never even seen blue in the sky—their region has been plagued by fog for as long as she can remember. Their terrain is dry and burning and Edith and their neighbours cling to memories of what once was: snow and rain, green grass and trees ripe with fruit.

Resigned to her fate, Skalde fills her days reading, writing and trying to live under her reclusive mother’s rules, until one day, from seemingly nowhere, a girl named Meisis arrives and Skalde decides to go against Edith’s wishes by bringing her in. Meisis’s arrival doesn’t simply mean that Skalde has someone to care for or a friend: it means that there has been a serious breach in security for the area and this proves to be too much for the community, a community that has decided to separate itself from the rest of the world and to do whatever it takes to survive, to handle.

Beautifully written in immersive, spare prose, Helene Bukowski’s debut novel is about what it means to be a mother at the end of the world, about living with the impacts of climate change and the way we view ‘outsiders’. Jen Calleja’s impressive translation is a moving rendition of this modern fairy-tale, where each moment witnessed, and every word uttered, is weighted with importance in the quiet, dying world of these characters living on the brink.

Milk Teeth is a novel with a lingering taste, one that weighs on the soul. It asks introspection of us, drawing attention to the cataclysms that daunt our own world even through the imagined, fictive realm. It advocates for responsibility instead of blindness, knowledge instead of ignorance, and in the realisation of the fact that there may no longer be easy answers for our problems, it holds up a mirror so that we may confront our worst instincts.’ - Anna Rumsby, Asymptote Journal

In Milk Teeth, Helene Bukowski has created a world as eerie, unsettling and immersive as that of Samanta Schweblin's Fever Dream. Her prose is as spare as the climate-change dystopia she depicts: harsh, unforgiving, and rife with social tension--but dotted with pockets of care. Come for the propulsive mystery, stay for the tenderness pulsing underneath it.’ - Jessica Gross, author of Hysteria

Like Sophie Macintosh in The Water Cure or Diane Cook in The New Wilderness, Helene Bukowski imagines a pocket landscape where the concerns of our world can be contained and considered, a defamiliarised place that skews increasingly uncanny without ever becoming unrecognisable. Written with precision and poise, Milk Teeth is a moving depiction of survival and perseverance, and of how we might choose new families and communities in the face of an increasingly hostile world.’ - Matt Bell, author of Appleseed

Against the backdrop of a slowly dying world, Helene Bukowski writes a beautiful and brutal story about living with trauma, the strain of motherhood and the danger of fearing the unknown.’ - Daria Husni, Glassworks