A gorgeously eerie collection that exposes elements of strange unreality lurking within the ordinary.
The lives of those near the fringes of society take center stage as Harun (A Man Came out of a Door in the Mountain, 2014) slowly untangles the secrets that lie within them. From hospital rooms to remote islands full of oddball residents, the settings are at once recognizable and inverted by a sense of foreboding that metastasizes and shifts. In "The Farmhouse Wife," a cash-strapped couple gratefully takes up residence in an abandoned home offered to them for low rent by an eccentric farmer, but a dissonant presence in their midst soon makes itself known, progressively eroding the couple’s sense of security in the house and relationship. The heartbreaking "Madame Ida" depicts an isolated elderly woman who receives anonymous sketches of her emotionally distant son in the mail; while "The New Arrival," which tracks an immigrant traveling illegally to the United States to bestow a potentially lifesaving gift on his cousin’s family, hums with precariousness and promise. And the collection’s title story, which features a 13-year-old girl reeling from her father’s death—and her mother’s agonized fixation on the idea that he might, against the odds, be alive on a remote island of his boyhood—offers a creeping meditation on loss, greed, and vengeance. Only the more metaphysical, slightly overworked "Temptation of the Tutelary," which features sort-of guardian angels whose charges have aged, strikes a dissonant note, though it doesn’t detract from the collection’s overall impact. Animated by a fierce sense of longing, Harun’s pieces expertly depict how individuals grapple with lost love, death, and uncertain futures. Each story exists within a carefully realized world—lit with detail like brilliant, bizarre snow globes—and, fueled by haunting prose, will remain gleaming in readers’ minds.
Masterful and varied.