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• Bookmarks: 8

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In novels like The Iliac Crest (2017) and The Taiga Syndrome (2018), Mexican author Rivera Garza has displayed an affinity for the mysterious: randomly encountered shadowy strangers and odd settings simultaneously out of place and out of time. This new collection of short fiction, which contains stories dating back to the 1980s along with some new ones, thankfully finds the author on familiar ground; it proves that nobody does quiet menace quite like her. In “City of Men,” a reporter finds herself in the titular metropolis, having been assigned by her editor to write a story about the city from a woman’s perspective—it’s “a place she had never wanted to go,” and as the story progresses, the reader finds out why. It’s a creepy tale that’s filled with a growing unease, and Rivera Garza handles its slow-burn narrative beautifully. A similar chilling surrealism pervades “The Date,” about an investigator on the trail of…well, something; it’s not quite clear. But it doesn’t need to be: Rivera Garza packs an impressive amount of atmospheric unease into its four pages, and the vagueness of the subject makes it even scarier. More conventional, but just as excellent, is “The Day Juan Rulfo Died,” which tells the story of a cafe meeting between two ex-partners who have “started to see each other just to criticize our current lovers.” The narrator, the reader comes to realize, isn’t as fine with their breakup as he initially lets on, admitting, “I wanted to own the world, the whole world, just to have the opportunity to wrap it up in wrapping paper and place it in her lap.” The story ends with a stunning final sentence that perfectly captures the post-romantic hopelessness and heartbreak that sometimes feel like they will never go away. The stories in this collection are as varied as Rivera Garza’s remarkable career, and this book is an excellent introduction to a unique writer who deserves to be recognized not just in Mexico, but all over the world.

8 recommended
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