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Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by…

Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories

by Mariana Enriquez

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I saw this in a First to Read offer, and as the title resonates with me for personal reasons, requested to read it. It was not surprising that Ms. Enríquez's stories of Argentina had nothing to do with those reasons of mine. These are at once disturbing, saddening, tragic, horrifying, haunting...impactful.

King and Koontz cannot write horror like this - though I admit my sample set of their work is limited by intent - because even the stories tending to the fantastical is painted with a brush of realism. And the prose... My copy was labeled "Uncorrected Proof. Not for sale", so the final may possibly be different, but here are a couple of snippets... From "The Intoxicated Years"...They'd forced the president to hand over the reins before the end of his term, and no one liked the new one too much, even though he'd won the elections by an impressive margin. The stench of resignation was in the air and seeped from the twisted mouths of embittered people, including the whiny parents we scorned now more than ever.
Italics mine. Or, from the story "Spiderweb",I decided to bring him [the character's husband] to my aunt and uncle to see if other eyes could transform him in mine.
And an observation on mental illness, in her story "Red Green Orange" (italics hers): If he had cancer, I tell her, you wouldn't think it's your fault. It isn't your fault he's depressed.

I've seen poverty in Venezuela, Honduras, Belize, Jamaica, Korea, ... the U.S. , ... too many places. But other than the US, and extended family many years ago, I've not seen firsthand the direct effects, nor the other lives that the author describes. As I said...haunting.

The original was published in 2014, and the English translation is scheduled to release in February 2017. ( )
1 vote Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'm torn on how to rate this book. I did not realize that the subject of the stories would be so graphic and full of horror. Really. I'm talking decapitation, drug addiction, alcohol, anorexia, monsters, things haunted. I should not have requested the book without knowing more.

However, the terrifying writing is obviously well done. I will keep my distance from the writer, [author:Mariana Enríquez|4930107], but not her fault. If this is your thing, then you may love this collection. For me personally, I was happy when I reached the last page of each one. ( )
  vickiayala | May 17, 2017 |
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 | May 17, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
These are dark stories, built from poverty, fear, heartbreak, and in some cases the supernatural. And yet, they are also built from beauty. For all of the darkness and violence built into the hearts of these stories of Argentinian struggle and poverty, the voice of the author is flawless and careful, and the characters are far too believable to be easily left behind or forgotten.

This won't be a collection for everyone--the stories are located closer to horror than to general fiction if we're talking about genre. But they are also smart, beautifully written, and worth of reading, and re-reading.

If you don't mind the dark side of literary, you should find them.

Recommended. ( )
  whitewavedarling | May 14, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book almost 2 months ago and had all intentions of reviewing it soon after. Yet, I was so close to finishing the shortlist for The Morning News' Tournament of Books. When that was over I had to read something light and easy. And then my wife and I had a kid and my reading life has been noticeably changed. This poor book has been pushed back so much that when I finally got around to reading it I had very little enthusiasm. But it won me over in spite of myself.

The first story ("Dirty Kid") was a slow starter for me, but portrayed a few of the common themes (e.g. the mysterious/supernatural). When later stories focused around creepy locales or buildings ("The Inn", "Adela's House", "The Neighbor's Courtyard") I was sold. I kept thinking that the stories all had a simmering creepiness that reminded me of Shirley Jackson (think about the way "The Lottery" saunters along in grim reality until the shocking climax) and Kelly Link (and not just because she blurbed the book). And the stories have that classic horror movie strategy of avoiding the monster reveal; I'm still picturing "Under the Black Water" two weeks later.

The stories are fun and do not depend on any particular knowledge of Argentina (or any of Latin America). However, a reader with some knowledge of the Peron's or of the "desaparecidos" (among other possible socio-political fixtures in Argentinian/Lat. American history) become aware of a more disturbing reality within the stories: a reality with even more relevance for Americans in Trump's US.

Without spending too much time trying to explain all the features of these stories, let me just say that you should read them. Read them because they are twisted and scary and even fun - even if they hit too close to home at times re political disillusionment.

Thanks to LibraryThing and Hogarth for this ARC. ( )
1 vote RyanF221 | May 11, 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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