A review by abbie_
Things We Lost in the Fire, by Mariana Enríquez

challenging dark mysterious medium-paced
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


Wow, wow, WOW. Kelly @contraryreader, I can't thank you enough for sending me this collection, and I'm annoyed at myself for not reading it sooner! This short story collection is a brilliant and brutal combination of scathing social commentary and pure horror, I can't recommend it enough! It's also brilliantly translated from the Spanish by one of my favourite translators, Megan McDowell!
In Things We Lost in the Fire, Mariana Enriquez seamlessly blends the very real darkness of our everyday lives with gothic horrors that make your skin crawl. Across these twelve stories she tackles difficult topics such as femicide, depression, poverty, addiction, and even the lasting repercussions of Argentina's violent past with dictatorships. To these already dark stories, she sprinkles supernatural touches that made me feel genuinely unsettled.
I only rated three of the twelve stories under 4 stars, and I had five outstanding favourites. The others were all extremely solid, I seriously could have read full sized novels of most of them - but that's the beauty of it. They don't need to be full length novels. Enriquez has mastered the art of the short story. Every one is its own contained horror, perfectly paced and perfectly formed. It wasn't that I was left wanting, I just never wanted them to end!
My favourites were Adela's House, a goosebump-inducing haunted house story, An Invocation of the Big-Eared Runt, where a ghost tour guide gets a little too up close and personal with the ghost of a notorious serial killer, End of Term, where a schoolgirl is tormented by a devilish spirit, The Neighbour's Courtyard, a neighbour hiding a horrific secret, and Under the Black Water, a Cthulhu-inspired story set in a poverty-stricken slum. There is so much variety within this collection, but I was constantly in awe of how Enriquez wove together contemporary Argentinian issues with the macabre.

I added up all of my ratings for each story and divided them by the number of stories and it came out as 4.2, but I'm going to round it up to 4.5 because the five-star stories were simply unforgettable.