A rich and malcontent stew of stories about the everyday terrors that wait around each new corner.

THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE

A dozen eerie, often grotesque short stories set in contemporary Argentina.

This debut collection by Buenos Aires–based writer Enríquez is staggering in its nuanced ability to throw readers off balance. In the opening story, “The Dirty Kid,” a graphic designer becomes obsessed with a homeless pregnant woman and her son, a mania that worsens when the decapitated body of a child is dumped nearby. The author’s rich descriptions of narcos, addicts, muggers, and transvestites quickly transport readers to an alien world. There are two very different tales of haunted houses in “The Inn,” in which a tourist hotel built on a former police barracks contains forces unknown; and “Adela’s House,” in which the title character steps through a door in an abandoned house—and is never seen again. “The Intoxicated Years” is a sly accounting of five years of increasingly severe drug use among a clique of friends. Then there are the truly monstrous stories that are likely to make readers peek between their fingers. In “No Flesh Over Our Bones,” an anorexic woman anthropomorphizes the human skull she finds in the street. “Vera and I are going to be beautiful and light, nocturnal and earthy; beautiful, the crusts of earth unfolding us. Hollow, dancing skeletons.” In “The Neighbor’s Courtyard,” a depressed woman is convinced a neighbor has chained up a young boy until she’s face to face with the feral, fanged boy, who eats her cat: “Paula didn’t run. She didn’t do anything while the boy devoured the soft parts of the animal, until his teeth hit her spine and he tossed the cadaver into a corner.” Still others reveal hidden humanity. In “End of Term,” two unwell girls find common ground. Finally, the title story chronicles a bit of mass hysteria in which women start self-immolating as a protest against domestic violence.

A rich and malcontent stew of stories about the everyday terrors that wait around each new corner.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49511-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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