Title: Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories
Author: Mariana Enriquez
Primary Format: paperback, courtesy of LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Crown Publishing
Secondary Format: eBook, courtesy of NetGalley and Crown Publishing
Start Date: March 8, 2017
End Date: March 20, 2017
Rating: 3 to 3 1/2 stars
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 seemed to allude to something just beneath the surface, there was also something inherently…tame…about them as a whole.
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, everyday 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.