cover image Things We Lost in the Fire

Things We Lost in the Fire

Mariana Enriquez, trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell. Hogarth, $24 (208p) ISBN 978-0-451-49511-2

Morbid tales of contemporary Argentina animate Enriquez’s memorable collection of short fiction. In “The Dirty Kid,” a privileged woman comes to believe that the homeless boy who lives outside her building has been the victim of a beheading, only to later learn that his fate is much more complicated. A young girl inexplicably disappears into an abandoned home, never to be seen again, in “Adela’s House,” while a broken-down car causes a tenuous marriage to disintegrate in “Spiderweb.” At their best, stories such as “An Invocation of the Big-Eared Runt” recall Stephen King at his most literary, grounding supernatural horror allegories in a detailed realist tableau. But even the weaker sections convey the singular strangeness of life as a woman in Argentina, where instability seems to haunt every facet of existence—the electricity, the currency, the concept of family—and sudden, otherworldly violence is always at one’s doorstep. Enriquez’s debut collection is elevated by its vivid locale and its deft inclusion of genre sensibilities. (Feb.)