Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone

Stefan Kiesbye. Penguin, $15 trade paper (196p) ISBN 978-0-14-312146-6
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Can a terrible history generate a terrible present? That is the question posed by German-born author Kiesbye’s dark second work of fiction (after Next Door Lived a Girl), composed of linked stories set in an archetypal rural German town in what seems to be the immediate postwar period. As in Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, the vague setting heightens the narrative tension, as Christian, first, provides us with a framing device in the funeral of Anke, one of a group of young friends now elderly and distant. Each tells their story in flashback, a perspective that suits the delicate prose. Extraordinary things happened to the villagers 40 years earlier. Some are tinged with the supernatural—a traveling carnival worker hints at mysterious origins; an annual cooking contest ends badly—and some are truly horrifying: incest, child murder, and a father’s brutal act of violence that leaves permanent scars. Why are these things happening in Hemmersmoor? Are tales of witches and curses to be believed? Or does the real reason lie at the end of the railroad tracks? Too subtle to be lurid yet too spooky for comfort, this book should appeal to readers of psychological fiction and literary tales of the supernatural. Agent: Markus Hoffmann, Regal Literary. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/02/2012
Release date: 09/25/2012
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