To deal with a violent history, Jean’s mother has violently erased it. Starting from a bare outline that includes an unspoken death, a predatory father, and a homeless stint, Jean reconstructs the life her mother, Jane, might have lived. But origin stories can never completely cover their tracks: like Jean’s story, Jane’s cannot be told apart from that of her own mother.
What follows is a set of stories spanning nearly a century in response to questions which the narrator wishes she had asked her mother and to which she has disjointed answers at best. In the absence of answers, the narrator, in various points of view, invents them. As the stories progress backwards in time, the footholds in fact grow fewer–and the shift to fabulism greater. But in her attempt to unravel her mother's origin and her own, Jean finds that the stories she invents, like the dogs who run through them as witnesses, allies, and objects of desire, serve as well as any other in the makeshift task of authoring a life.
"Seven interconnected stories plumb the murky depths of a family history in O’Neil’s debut collection.... Rooted in the mostly real geography of Massachusetts across the 20th century, O’Neil’s stinging stories of unremarkable adulthoods create a resounding, hollow feeling where love and hope could have been." —Publishers Weekly
“Fever Dogs is a stunning collection of stories—each one tightly wound and glimmering with mysterious force. The writing is brilliant. It’s very affecting to go back in time and see the throughlines that cross generations and continue to strangle.”—Elizabeth McKenzie, author of Stop That Girl: A Novel in Stories and The Portable Veblen: A Novel
"A fevered family history found buried in a back yard box, scribbled by some half-mad, most-lucid family remnant none would now dare claim. O’Neil’s stories are like none other I’ve seen, brought out of some place I’ve never been outside of the dream world I can never fully recall upon waking. Beautiful, chilling, strangely moving work.” —Brad Watson, author of Miss Jane: A Novel
"Wry, funny and quietly devastating, these stories are a pleasure to read even as they twist the heart. Fans of Eileen Myles and Mary Gaitskill will find much to admire here." —Emily Gould, author of Friendship