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Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by…
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Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories

by Mariana Enriquez

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1225998,704 (4.01)19
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Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE is a collection of short stories by Mariana Enriquez. The author lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina and that is the primary setting for these stories. She explores socioeconomic issues, sexism, corruption, relationships, religion and the supernatural, and many other topics in these 12 tales. There is a strong sense of unease and darkness that runs throughout the entire collection. The author doesn't shy away from leading the reader right up to the edge of the abyss, but not quite giving that last push. Whether to make the jump or not is up to you.

In "End of Term", Marcela begins acting disturbingly in school, engaging in various kinds of self-mutilation. She eventually has a bizarre breakdown during a class, trembling in her seat while trying to push away some invisible force, and runs into the bathroom. Her schoolmate follows her and learns that Marcela is being tormented by a man that only she can see, who makes her do these things to herself. Marcela tells her that the man will soon start visiting her as well, making her do things. Is Marcela hallucinating due to some kind of psychosis, or is there really some violent supernatural presence at work?

In the title story, a number of women around Buenos Aires are the victims of brutal domestic violence. Their boyfriends/husbands, suspecting them of infidelity, doused the women in alcohol and ignited it while the women were sleeping. The women survived, but were horribly disfigured. News of these attacks inspires a group of women to protest this savage and barbaric treatment of women by lighting themselves on fire during very public bonfires.

The writing throughout the collection is clear and haunting. There are no odd phrasings or other tell-tale signs that a work was not originally written in English. In fact, if you weren't informed that there was a translator, you might not have ever guessed that it was a Spanish language book first. This speaks to Megan McDowell's skill and artistry. The seamlessness of the translation makes it a joy to read, even if the subject matter lacks any real joyfulness.

Throughout THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE, the author brings you to the brink of total despair and fear. Maybe it's through a suspenseful or mysterious encounter; perhaps it's a disorienting and violent experience in the neighborhood. In any case, there is a sense that the absolute worst thing could be happening just around the corner, but Mariana Enriquez doesn't lead you there by the hand. She gives you the choice of whether you turn back, or leap into the abyss. Either way, you will be changed by the experience. ( )
  BooksForYears | Mar 29, 2017 |
This is a dark, disturbing book of dark, disturbing stories about dark, disturbed people. If you like stories about teenage acidheads, young mothers who sell their children, girls who vanish into houses never to be seen again, angry self-cutters, ghosts, etc., then this is the book for you. It wasn't for me.

Thank you to the author and publishers for a review copy. ( )
  ChayaLovesToRead | Mar 25, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
These 12 dark stories were quite the page turner even if sometimes by the end of the story there was a bit of a let down. The majority of the stories were strong, 8 out of 12. There was nothing really new about the stories and I with a few I could already guess the direction of the story. However, Ms. Enriquez' writing is very fluid so I never got bored and I remained curious. I would definitely read another collection by her. ( )
  caalynch | Mar 24, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Maybe I wasn’t the princess in her castle; maybe I was a madwoman locked in her tower.

I don’t usually read short story collections. It’s not that I don’t like them – I do – but they quite often fail to hold my interest enough to entice me to see them through to the end.

However, this is the second collection of short stories I read within the past year, the first being Deborah Willis’ The Dark and Other Love Stories, which was deep and haunting, but in a very different way. While Willis’ collection also seemed to allude to something just beneath the surface, there was also something inherently…tame…about them.

That is not the case with Mariana Enriquez’s Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories. Set in Argentina, this collection of stories is unlike anything I’ve ever read. The stories range in scope of horror – from bone-chilling psychological thriller (“Adela’s House,” “Under the Black Water”) to good old fashion ghost stories (“An Invocation of the Big-Eared Runt,” “The Inn”) to the more realistic and ponderous (“No Flesh over Our Bones,” “Green Red Orange”). Although each story begins with the characters involved in seemingly “normal” situations, it soon becomes clear that something is askew: that there is something lurking right behind them.

However, I was never fully satisfied. I felt like there was a spark missing, something that I was not quite fully able to grasp. Some of it comes from the tension-building of the author – for quite a few of the stories, she built the climax and ended abruptly in ambiguity – but I think it ultimately comes from the feeling that I was expecting more from this collection.

I think the beginning stories were strong and provided a good flavor of the unique scope and writing style of the author – I particularly enjoyed “The Intoxicated Years,” “Adela’s House,” and “An Invocation of the Big-Eared Runt.” However, the second half was weaker, and a good handful of the stories were disappointing, especially “Things We Lost in the Fire” – the anchor and the one I was particularly excited to read because it lent its name to the title of the collection. Instead, it was too metaphorical and vague as to what, exactly, the author was referring.

Which is ultimately unfortunate, because I feel like the excessive ambiguity of quite a few of the stories took away from the overall impact this collection could have had.

That being said, I enjoyed reading something that is out of the realm of what I usually tend to read – a unique combination of horror and short stories set in Argentina.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars for creativity and uniqueness. Rounded down to a solid 3 stars because of the lack of any of these stories really producing a “spark” of excitement; (the stories that got closest were probably “Adela’s House” or “An Invocation of the Big-Eared Runt”).

I won a paper copy in a giveaway book from LibraryThing Early Reviewers, as well as an electronic copy from NetGalley, both through Crown Publishing. I received these copies in exchange for an honest review.

If you're interested, you can check out this review and others on my blog!
https://allisonsadventuresintowonderlands.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/mariana-enriquezs-things-we-lost-in-the-fire-stories/ ( )
  Allison_Krajewski | Mar 20, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'm only about halfway through this book, but the stories so far are beautiful -- melancholy, a little frightening, very recognizably Argentinean. Megan McDowell's translation is beautiful and reads very like what I imagine the original Spanish sounds like. I'd love to get my hands on the original.

The one nitpick I have is that McDowell translates travestí as 'transvestite', which is not exactly accurate -- the women in the first story that the speaker calls 'transvestites' are clearly transgender women, and I do know that in Argentina the word travestí has a broader meaning than the English cognate.

Other than that, I recommend this book of stories a lot.
  theleakypen | Mar 16, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 045149511X, Hardcover)

An arresting collection of short stories, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and Julio Cortazar, by an exciting new international talent.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 06 Sep 2016 19:07:35 -0400)

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