Mariana Enríquez’s short story collection is a chilling, unforgettable read set in contemporary Argentina.
If you’re an active member on Goodreads, then I’m sure you have seen “The Dangers of Smoking in Bed” making its way higher and higher on the Best Rated of 2021 list. But does it deserve its astronomically high rating? Yes. I can confidently say that “The Dangers of Smoking in Bed” exceeds all expectations.
Originally published in 2009 by Mariana Enríquez, “The Dangers of Smoking in Bed” has finally seen its U.S. publication earlier this year; it was originally published in Spanish, and has now been translated by Megan McDowell. This is the first of Enríquez’s collections to be translated into English and it now stands on the shortlist for the International Booker Prize.
“The Dangers of Smoking in Bed” is a short story collection filled to the brim with stories that are sure to give you chills. Set in contemporary Argentina, the stories range from the obscene to the supernatural. Despite the supernatural elements prevalent in these 12 short stories, they never fully rely on fantasy; rather, they tend to focus on psychological horror, making for 12 macabre stories focusing on mortality.
Before continuing, I feel it is best to give a brief warning about this novel. It is assuredly not for the faint of heart. In addition to graphic descriptions of violence and gore, this novel also contains several potentially
triggering subjects such as suicide, drug abuse, self harm, sexual assault and even (most strangely) the fetishizment of dying individuals. Even though these topics are extremely shocking, it never feels like Enríquez is using these issues just to shock readers.
Though all of these stories are unforgettable in their own way, trust me, it will be a long while before these horrifying tales leave your mind. Some of these short stories, in my opinion, were stronger than others. One of my personal favorites was a story titled “The Cart,” which tells the story of a curse falling on a neighborhood due to
their abuse of a homeless man. If I had to describe this story in one single word, it would be “visceral.” Dealing with socio-political topics, “The Cart” offers an interesting twist to the status quo of how homeless individuals are treated.
Another personal favorite is “The Kids Who Come Back,” which happens to take up a quarter of the collection. This story follows a social worker as she constantly updates the online databases of missing and abused children. One day, a young girl who was declared dead is seen sitting in the park near Mechi’s work. Come to find out, this
young girl is only the first of thousands to return. At first, the arrivals are a blessing, but as time goes on, things quickly take a turn for the worst.
“The Kids Who Come Back “ is utterly unforgettable. It’s the type of story that immediately pulls you in from the first sentence, capturing you in its grip and refusing to let go until you have devoured the entire story. Dripping with danger and desperation, “The Kids Who Come Back” is a story you’ll want to return to again and again.
“The Dangers of Smoking in Bed’’ is a triumph for the horror genre, offering a fresh perspective and ingenious stories. Unfortunately, I have not seen this novel available at any major retailers yet; however, it is available at local independent bookstore Whitty Books. If you’re looking for a chilling read that would be perfect for the Halloween season, then look no further.