Finalist for a Lambda Literary Award
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.
"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
“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 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. Vital, vivid, and angry."—Kirkus Reviews (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."—Publishers Weekly
Reviews from Goodreads
Open the cabinet. Move the cinnamon. Move the nutmeg. Move the coriander, the cardamom pods, the cumin, the cloves. Move the small dark bottle of vanilla extract and the oregano and the garam masala you’ve only used twice. There,...