This book nearly defies description, but here goes.

The novel is a spider web of small tales, each with an allegorical twist.  Somewhere vaguely Germanic, or possibly in eastern European, is the small town of Hemmersmoor.  These people live a simple, happy life.  There are still stores on the main street – bakeries, hardware stores and sundry shops.  Time is also a shimmering mist over the town.  There are mentions of trucks and a war, but nothing about telephones or television.

“Hemmersmoor” translates as “inhibitor’s moor”, and it’s an atmospheric place.

A few years back, a fire destroyed was left of Otto Nubis’s workshop.  What lay beyond the factory, outside our village, we all have dutifully forgotten.  The country is trying to open a museum there, but who is going to buy our paintings and clay souvenirs if their plan is successful?  The villagers are shaking their heads.  Why should we have to suffer against?  We had nothing to do with it.

Time is of no importance.  I was young and didn’t know a thing about our time.  There had never been a different one in Hemmersmoor.  In our village time didn’t progress courageously.  In our village she limped a bit, got lost more than once, and always ended up at Frick’s bar and in one of Jens Jensen’s tall tales.     ~ Pg. 4

The book has been compared to stories by Shirley Jackson, Rod Serling, and Susan Hill.  But that somehow doesn’t quite encompass it.  Imagine if Garrison Keillor wrote the stories of Lake Woebegon but he was completely creepy.  Various town citizens’ stories intertwine and overlap, with the youth pulling all the strings.

These young people represent an angst-ridden, floundering generation, with too much energy and not enough direction.  When they are left to their own devices, their bizarre things begin to happen.  Nine ghosts haunt a defeated woman, a carnival steals souls, and a bet turns deadly.

The motive rides a fine line between an evil, supernatural force and bizarre happenstance.  There is no force, no arch villain — only a unseen, creeping unease.

Kiesbye’s style is refreshing, succinct and terse.  Yet without any flowery language, Kiesbye draws an eerie and vivid picture.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I was greatly impressed with his storytelling ability.

Many thanks to the folks at Penguin for the review copy.

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ISBN 9780143121466
208 pages
25 Sep 2012
Penguin
8.26 x 5.23in
18 – AND UP

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE by Stefan Kiesbye”

    1. It’s hard to say “what it’s about”, really. On the surface, it is about weird and often devastating things that happen to this small town. But that’s just part of it. It’s about psychology, rumor, gossip, human behavior and more.

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