I don’t know what made the publishers decide on a spring release for Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories. This collection is perfect for Halloween!
Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories is a book that surprised me. The book has good ratings, but when it comes to books by relatively new (Mariana Enríquez is not exactly new, but this is the first time her work got translated into English) and previously unheard of writers, I tend to be skeptical. Now, having read the book, I can only say my doubts were unfounded about this one.
For me, some tales in Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories were brutal enough to make my toes curl. I can not say if it was just the supernatural elements of the stories that made me feel so, in certain stories it was the way humans act that horrified me. Stories The Dirty Kid and Under the Black Water stand out in this regard. In The Dirty Kid, the kid is a five-year-old born to a junkie mother. The pair live in the pavement and sleep on a mattress next to the narrator’s house who is well-off. The narrator sees how irresponsible the junkie is with the kid and how she never treats the kid with kindness. Yet, the narrator does not help the kid, for she worries about her own safety – of the possibility of the junkie cutting her with a broken bottle if she gives enough reason. Later on, the narrator comes to the realization “how little I cared about people, how natural these desperate lives seemed to me” and that line unsettled me and stayed with me for a long time. Under the Black Water is a story with Matanza Riachuelo river as its backdrop, one of the world’s most polluted waterways. More than the story itself, it is the descriptions of this devastating pollution I found to be disturbing.
Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories is the second dark stories collection I read in recent times – last year I read Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood. Mariana Enríquez does not incorporate humor into her wicked stories like Margaret Atwood does. Nonetheless, she has an equally good writing style which is easy to read, and most of her stories have themes that go beyond the horror. That makes Mariana Enríquez a writer to look out for, and I hope more of her books will get translated into English in future.