In an unnamed country in Africa, a plague is stalking the population. Medical workers, trying to survive themselves, work ceaselessly to help and console stricken villagers, when into their midst comes a benign mysterious near savior, with wings. Implicitly and without fanfare, these beautifully constructed stories—profound, humane, dark, and yet illuminated by love and belief in humanity—bring us into the heart of the global catastrophes facing our species and our planet today. They grapple with pain and loss, but they also shimmer with miracle.
Maya Alexandri’s collection, The Plague Cycle, takes us deep into a makeshift epidemic clinic where we circle around a set of characters as they themselves circle around the dead, as they reason through their usefulness and fate. Much haunts us in the language embedded in this loose handful of stories—like a fistful of stones we are given these tales to look for resonance, humanity and resilience.
Sophie Cabot Black, author of The Exchange and The Descent
Maya Alexandri writes with the beauty and magic of a different era. The haunting, moving stories in The Plague Cycle are like modern day fairy tales. Alexandri’s prose lights up the reader’s imagination, illuminating a vivid landscape you will never forget.
Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Trouble with Lexie and The Wonderbread Summer
Under the shadow of a deadly virus, grave-digging becomes routine and knowledge of one’s own identity a luxury. The Plague Cycle by Maya Alexandri gives us fully realized characters whose breathtaking resilience could be the subject of medical study. The people in these gorgeous stories do something that is at once Herculean and uniquely human—they generate questions … even when life seems to give them nothing but answers.
Kathy Flann, author of Get a Grip, winner of the George Garrett Award, International Book Award for Fiction: Short Story, Best Book Award for Fiction: Short Story, National Indie Excellence Award for Fiction: Short Story. Named a best book of the year by Baltimore Magazine and Baltimore City Paper
The linked stories in this excellent collection—Maya Alexandri's first—exist half way between timeless fable and the tensely poetic Hemingway of In Our Time. They are both dreamlike and unflinching, painting a picture of a parched landscape modeled on the South Sudan, in the grips of a terrible Ebola-like epidemic. Drawn from the author's personal experience and rendered with an artist's attention to surreal detail, The Plague Cycle never fails to fascinate.
I was both transfixed and transported by The Plague Cycle. Maya Alexandri’s writing is so brutal, so particular, so beautiful, and so true that it is difficult to believe this is a work of fiction.
Maya Alexandri's cycle of linked short stories offers a stark and poetic vision of a worldwide epidemic, as experienced through the lives of aid-workers in a small African camp. As these very human heroes struggle to deal with the complex effects of the devastating plague, readers are privy to to an unflinching depiction of the ravages of disease—both physical and psychological, individual and collective—in a voice that moves between clinical and mythological, personal and societal, in a stunning, fast-paced work that leaves behind a residue of both despair and plain, human hope. This is the kind of meaningful fiction that lingers with you long after the first time you read it.
Timmy Reed, author of Kill Me Now, IRL, and Miraculous Fauna
In the context of human existence since the end of the last ice age 11,000 years ago, perhaps the most impressive thing about Maya Alexandri is that she still has all her teeth.
Even her work — for a not insignificant period of time — in the legal profession has not provoked a disastrous punch in the jaw.
Nor has imbibing the acidic smog of Beijing, a city she called “home” for the better part of a decade, caused tooth loss. Attribute this blessing to the fact that she is not a mouth breather. Don’t ask about her sinuses.
Maya worried that she cracked a tooth in Botswana, once, when she bit into an insufficiently ripe guava. But she didn’t.
Maya fell asleep one night in Louisiana and dreamed that Death came to her and put his boney finger in her mouth, and she bit it off, whereupon she awoke with a ghastly “crunch” resounding in her ears, and ran to the bathroom fearing broken teeth. But it was just a dream.
Maya fell off the stage during a gig in Beijing, while performing a cover of the Jet song, “Are you gonna be my girl?,” and she bruised her lower back. No teeth were injured in the fiasco.
Maya’s current projects include flossing, seeing reality as it is and accepting it, and appreciating how lucky she is in the context of human existence since the end of the last ice age 11,000 years ago.