Your House is on Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye

Hemmersmoor is a doomed village, a Brigadoon at hell’s gate, a foregone thought of a place in the peat bogs of northwesternyour house Germany, where the locals commit violent acts and weave dark secrets.  It is a place where the supernatural and the town’s domestic soap operas collide.

A clutch of old friends come together for a funeral at the beginning.  The deceased is Anke – one of their own, a town girl who marries for prestige and ultimately pays her own price.  The friends are Christian, back from the United States for the funeral, Alex, the innkeeper, Martin, a serious one who views Alex with suspicion, and Linde, whom the others deem as crazy.  The book uses these characters to tell stories of childhood and adolescence that inform us of their transgressions against each other and to others in the town.

The bulk of this book supposedly takes place after World War II, but the town has a timeless quality about it, as if the outside world has none or little bearing on its affairs.  There are brief mentions of the war and other places, but Hemmersmoor and its haunted landscape stand front and center here.  The manor house close by and its rich inhabitants also make periodic appearances, often to tragic effect.  And Kiesbye’s writing sets such a dreamlike tone that one often wonders what they have just read after going through a chapter.

With generous dashes of uncanny happenings and folk legend, Your House is on Fire… mixes the weirdest elements of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with a Shirley Jackson sense of macabre.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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