book review: Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez

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Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez

US pub date: February 21, 2017

★★★

Macabre and often grotesque, Things We Lost in the Fire is a short story collection that puts a literary spin on the horror genre, in which Mariana Enríquez’s beautiful prose compels you to explore the darkest corners of contemporary Argentine society. In a collection that ranges from ghost stories to psychological horror, at times the distinction between these two horror sub-genres isn’t entirely clear-cut. To what extent is this horror real, and to what extent is it a psychological manifestation? This collection is characterized by a sort of toxic obsessiveness, and Enríquez never shies away from showing the most horrible and cruel aspects of human nature. Each story is fueled by a tense urgency that pulls you in and leaves you wanting more – but this was part of the problem, for me.

There’s a sort of dissatisfying ambiguity to each of these narratives, and I found myself constantly wishing Enriquez would go a bit further. The open endings work at times, and add to the uneasy atmosphere (Adela’s House and The Inn are good examples), but at other times the ambiguity serves only to frustrate. I was sure I would end up giving this collection 4 stars at first, waiting for that one story that would wow me and justify the high rating, but I kept finding story after story to suffer from that feeling of incompleteness.

Favorites were: The Intoxicated Years, The Inn, An Invocation of the Big-Eared Runt, and Adela’s House. Least favorites were: Under the Black Water, Things We Lost in the Fire, Spiderweb, and Green Red Orange.

Ultimately: recommended to horror fans who (1) aren’t easily triggered – there is some seriously disturbing stuff in these pages – and (2) don’t mind ambiguous endings. Enríquez’s strength is the unsettling atmosphere that she so expertly evokes; this collection is really for readers who are willing to enjoy the journey rather than spend the whole time looking for answers.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you Netgalley, Hogarth Press, and Mariana Enríquez.

+ link to review on goodreads

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