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Milk Teeth

by Helene Bukowski

Translated by Jen Calleja.

Price: £12.99

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Quick take

Milk Teeth is a dark fairytale that treats the natural world with a tender hand.

Synopsis
Why we love it

From Skalde’s relationship with her mother, to the brilliant middle-aged women who are her allies, every character is bright and alive.

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...

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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.

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  • Helene studied at the Hildesheim Literature Institute and, in addition to writing, also runs creative writing courses and workshops. Her debut novel Milk Teeth (Milchzähne, 2019) was nominated for the Mara Cassens Prize, the Rauris Literature Prize and the Kranichstein Literature Prize, among others. It has been translated into several languages and a film adaptation is in the works. Her latest novel, The Warrior (Die Kriegerin, 2022), was selected as one of the 10 'Books at Berlinale' for their 2023 programme.

  • Indie publisher MTO Press is a social enterprise publishing literature by women and non-binary authors. They donate at least 50% of their profits to various causes depending on the book in question and the aims of the author.

    See all books by MTO Press