The Dangers of Smoking in Bed
If you enjoyed Things We Lost in the Fire, then you’ll love The Dangers of Smoking in Bed.
“"The Dangers of Smoking in Bed" by Argentine writer Mariana Enriquez, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, revisits themes found in her 2017 collection "Things We Lost in the Fire." Her disquieting stories, populated by ghosts, disappeared adults and exploited children, examine economic pain, social unrest and violence through the lens of literary horror. Characters observing the slow burn of a society in decay find themselves asking, as the titular story does, "Why not just let the fire keep going and do its job?" Supernatural elements become compelling metaphors for societal breakdown. In ""The Cart,"" a poor neighborhood experiences bad luck after a homeless man--worse off than the people there--is driven away. ""There had to be an accumulation of misfortune for the neighborhood to feel like something strange was going on,"" says the narrator. Jobs are lost, utilities turned off and food is hard to come by, causing people to turn feral to survive. The only family left untouched by bad luck, one that offered some comfort to the homeless man, is forced to flee before neighbors turn on them. ""We were scared, but fear doesn't look the same as desperation,"" the son in this family knows. Child exploitation is represented as an actual haunting of society. In ""Rambla Triste,"" abused children wander the streets of Barcelona, leaving a stench and creating havoc for everyone. In ""Kids Who Come Back,"" children in Buenos Aires who were lost or disappeared begin to reappear, unchanged, at the same time. People have ""no idea what was happening and couldn't explain it; they only knew that they were very afraid."" Josefina, in ""The Well,"" discovers her paralyzing fears result from trusted adults who used a sorceress to rid themselves of fear and pass it to her when she was only a child. ""They said they would take care of you. But they didn't take care of you,"" she is told. Adults do not save the children in these stories. It's impossible to miss the fear that permeates The Dangers of Smoking in Bed. Young girls are afraid to leave their homes, a ghost baby is afraid to be alone and young men are afraid to stay in the cities. Throughout, Enriquez skillfully uses the tropes of horror to expose the everyday atrocities that occur in societies that abandon the fight against corruption. Even as these stories provide chills, they elicit a deep feeling of sadness for innocence lost. -reviewed for Shelf Awareness 11-17-20"”Cindy, The River's End Bookstore
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