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

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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/Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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