Seven Empty Houses
Winner of the 2022 National Book Award for Translated Literature
A blazing new story collection that will make you feel like the house is collapsing in on you, from the 3 time International Booker Prize finalist, "lead[ing] a vanguard of Latin American writers forging their own 21st-century canon.” –O, the Oprah magazine
The seven houses in these seven stories are strange. A person is missing, or a truth, or memory; some rooms are enticing, some unmoored, others empty. But in Samanta Schweblin's tense, visionary tales, something always creeps back inside: a ghost, a fight, trespassers, a list of things to do before you die, a child's first encounter with darkness or the fallibility of parents.
In each story, twists and turns will unnerve and surprise: Schweblin never takes the expected path and instead digs under the skin, revealing surreal truths about our sense of home, of belonging, and of the fragility of our connections with others. This is a masterwork from one of our most brilliant modern writers.
International Booker Prize finalist Schweblin (Fever Dream) centers her undercooked collection on families defined by an absence, whether physical or of intimacy, memory, or sanity. In the eerie and propulsive opener, "None of That," a young woman and her disturbed mother get stuck in a wealthy neighborhood. After the mother connives her way into the landowner's house, she compulsively tidies and catalogs the woman's belongings. In "Out," a woman flees her apartment wearing a bathrobe during a fight with her husband, only to have a disconcerting night on the town with a man who claims to be the building's "escapist." Unfortunately, Schweblin's stories are far more evocative than substantive, and their sense of uncanny weightlessness—told in brisk, nondescript prose, featuring nameless and indistinct narrators and aimless plots—diminishes intrigue and leaves the reader hungry for deeper imaginative leaps. The exception is "Breath from the Depths," which follows Lola, a retiree, as she descends into dementia and feuds with the young mother across the street. Schweblin can evoke a mesmerizing, eerie tone, but too often does little more than that.