If you didn’t believe in ghost stories before, this book might cause you to reconsider. Not just the otherworldly ghouls that appear in the pages but the lingering effects of bad decisions that haunt us like ghosts of times past.
Things We Lost In The Fire is Mariana Enriquez’ short story collection set in Argentina and featuring characters, mostly female, as they deal with supernatural occurrences that reflect the reality of a culture steeped in tradition, not all of them good.
The first story is about a woman who inherits a family house in a bad part of town and finds herself surrounded by criminal and drug activity and all that surrounds that lifestyle. A homeless child in particular, a five year old who she refers to as Dirty Kid (the title) because she doesn’t know his name, makes her rethink her choices, but not before he scares her out of her mind with tales of patron saints and the sacrifices that people make to improve their lives.
Story 2 follows a teenager who is slightly obsessed with her best friend and against her better judgment, decides to help the friend seek revenge. Their mission takes them to The Inn (the title location) where they hear sounds and see things they cannot explain, especially with everyone else refuting the history that the inn used to serve as a torture chamber generations prior.
The third story, Intoxicated Years, is about some teenaged girls in codependent relationships, experimenting with drugs and using relationships as commodities. Their drug induced haze creates the perfect backdrop so it is unclear whether the ghostly elements are real or hallucinated.
…and so on and so on until we get to the final, title story, which describes women engaging in burning – ritualistic self destruction as a response to centuries of repression. Just one more thing we lost in the fire.
Some of the same elements were repeated in several of the stories – flickering lights (fires) or blackouts (absence of fires), which probably happens frequently in a third world country but that lends itself to creating the environment for these kinds of stories and beliefs to flourish. When I was a child, I remember gathering with others around a bonfire or lantern on the nights when the electricity was out, and hearing ghostly stories then too. And while I don’t seek out paranormal literature now, I appreciated the author’s use of this literary devices as a vehicle to carry her social commentary. But it wasn’t until I got to the end of the collection that I appreciated all that the fires represented – safety, passion, excitement, heat, light, fellowship, danger, destruction, obliteration.
If you can handle a little scare, I’d recommend this book. If you frighten easily, maybe sit this one out.
What I Liked
- Attractive cover
- Complex characters
- The stories got better once I understood the political and social commentary that lurked behind the plot.
What I Didn’t Like
- Some of the stories felt a little too short for me to get invested in the characters
- Graphic depictions and disturbing situations described sometimes in too rich detail
There were 12 stories and I rated them individually and averaged the scores so in the end, I gave the entire collection a 3.5 star rating, although a couple of them were a 4 or better.
Author: Mariana Enriquez
Title: Things We Lost In The Fire
I received a free copy of this book from Blogging For Books in order to complete this review but this did not at all influence my opinions of the story collection.
It’ll boost my approval ratings and make it more likely that I’ll get more awesome books to review and share with you in the future.