Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez

Rating: 3 of 5

Coming soon! February 21, 2017 Available to pre-order now.

A collection of short stories set in Argentina, filled with macabre imagery and abhorrent behavior, none of which will leave you feeling all that happy. “Horror” stories in the sense that an examined look beneath the surface at a reality the majority choose to overlook or blatantly ignore — poverty, child abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, police corruption — will horrify readers.

There are a few supernatural stories, but, even in those, there’s a residual impression that while ghosts may exist, there’s likely a more dangerous monster, in the guise of a human, lurking, waiting for you to pass by as you walk down the street to your house, in your “safe” neighborhood.

Argentine author Mariana Enríquez is an excellent storyteller who, based on this collection, doesn’t like to write stories with many, if any, answers; her comfort zone exists in ambiguity it seems, endings-wise anyway. However, the social commentary in several stories – like the women’s reactions to domestic abuse and societal definitions of beauty in the titular story, “Things We Lost in the Fire” – is nothing if not straightforward.

My personal favorites are “Adela’s House” (three kids and a house that tells its own stories) and “End of Term” (an outcast who self-harms may be under the influence of something else) — both of which I rated four stars.

I gave one star to “The Neighbor’s Courtyard” because of Elly (that’s my biggest trigger in dark fiction), but it’s superbly written — we question the protagonist’s sanity right until the end — and worth the read if you’re not as sensitive as I am.

Recommended to those looking for literary fiction in which the journey through dark, disturbing territories is very much the point. Not for anyone who doesn’t appreciate ambiguous endings. Not for readers sensitive to triggers like graphic violence involving children and animals.

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Received ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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