SEVEN EMPTY HOUSES by Samanta Schweblin (Oneworld £12.99, 208pp)


by Samanta Schweblin (Oneworld £12.99, 208pp)

These seven eerie, uneasy stories seem peculiarly pertinent to the present post-pandemic financial crisis mood of uncertainty.

Homes and their inhabitants are subject to a mysterious malaise, with cardboard packing boxes cluttering up rooms, and unwieldy thoughts and emotions bestrewing fragile minds; the stories may be spare and pared back, but their cumulative effect is a heightened sense of fear and a disrupted sense of safety. Here, a mother steals a sugar bowl to bury in the garden, to the bewilderment of the homeowner and the resigned anguish of her daughter (None Of That); a pair of naked grandparents disappear with their grandchildren (My Parents And My Children); and in the longest, most troubling tale, a paranoid woman meticulously sorts her possessions and waits for death to take her (Breath From The Depths).

EASTMOUTH AND OTHER STORIES by Alison Moore (Salt £9.99, 144pp)


by Alison Moore (Salt £9.99, 144pp)

Like Samanta Schweblin, Alison Moore’s sinister stories inhabit a familiar territory of domestic disturbance, where grey seaside towns and chilly old houses are the everyday settings for events which seethe with quiet unease. The collection opens with the unsettling titular story, as a possibly pregnant Sonia visits her partner Peter’s parents in an off-season, under-populated English seaside town and finds herself unable to leave as the town’s remaining residents track her every move.

It’s a scant nine pages, but is scarily full of bad intent, as are both Winter Closing, where a furious, hounded writer enacts a fiery revenge in a chilling haunted-house story, and The Sketch, where a shadowy drawing of a troll-like creature appears to scrabble from the page to menace an unhappily married couple, who are unsuccessfully living together in a claustrophobically tiny apartment.

by Meron Hadero (Canongate £14.99, 224pp)

Meron Hadero was born in Addis Ababa and came to the U.S. via Germany as a young child, and these wonderful, wise stories capture the experience of dislocation and loneliness of her characters — taxi drivers, students, the food truck owners of the title story — who are caught between a troubled past and an uncertain future, struggling to find a sense of security and belonging in a world that’s inhospitable and confusing.

It’s best summed up by Mekonnen aka Mack aka Huey Freakin’ Newton, who moves with his family from Ethiopia and lands in Brooklyn in 1989. He learns to navigate this new world with the help of a neighbourhood clique of kids who call themselves the African American All-stars, and by embracing the values of ‘community, and above all pride . . . resilience and camaraderie . . .’

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