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Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone: A Novel Paperback – September 25, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“Chilling . . . Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson . . . If you loved The White Ribbon—or the trope of sinister children generally—Stefan Kiesbye’s Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone is essential reading.” —The Paris Review Daily

“Chilling . . . inflicting both terror and wonder. . . . Kiesbye digs deep . . . and comes up with horrific gold. . . . There is just one word potent enough to describe [it]: the novel is sublime.” —BookPage

“As in Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery,’ the vague setting heightens the narrative tension. . . . Too subtle to be lurid yet too spooky for comfort, this book should appeal to readers of psychological fiction and literary tales of the supernatural.” —Publishers Weekly

“[A] wicked novel . . . Stunning . . . [There is a] quiet, unnerving effect [to] Kiesbye’s Brothers Grimm–like prose. . . . An episodic, poetic, nightmarish offspring of Grace Metalious’s Peyton Placeand Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.” —Booklist

“Nearly always startling . . . Quietly savage . . . Clinically dispassionate and chilling . . . Smack[s] of shades of Shirley Jackson and Stephen King . . . In an age when ‘torture porn’ still makes regular returns to the multiplex every Halloween, it’s worth being reminded that novelists, especially gifted ones, can make the trespasses we inflict on others just as ghastly as any chain-saw massacre.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A very elegant nightmare, so appalling and so beautiful.” —Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry

“By turns creepy, sensitive, unsettling, and beautifully written, but best of all, it provokes dark stirrings while always providing great pleasure. Stefan Kiesbye would be a writer to watch out for if he had not so clearly already arrived.” —Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone

“Creepy in a way that actually made me quite nervous.” —Ben Loory, author of Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

“With a chilling twist here and there, a sly, stark wit, and a fascinating cast of lost boys and girls, Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone is part nostalgia trip and part horror show, as honest and heartfelt as The Virgin Suicides in its portrait of adolescent yearning, anxieties, and heartbreak.” —Timothy Schaffert, author of The Coffins of Little Hope

“A brilliant amalgam of Faulkner, the Brothers Grimm, and Günter Grass as if condensed for intensity.” —Josip Novakovich, author of Fiction Writing Workshop and Writing Fiction Step By Step

“Quick, hypnotic, and intensely creepy. The characters are all doomed. ‘Doomed to what?’ is the only question, and you won’t put the book down until you find out.” —Christopher Buehlman, author of Those Across the River and Between Two Fires

“Full of dark folk magic and frightful, lurid wonder. It casts a spell, winking all the way through every grim detail and shadowy secret.” —Paul Elwork, author of The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead

About the Author

Stefan Kiesbye has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. Born on the German coast of the Baltic Sea, he moved to Berlin in the early 1980s. He studied drama and worked in radio before starting a degree in American studies, English, and comparative literature at Berlin's Freie Universität. A scholarship brought him to Buffalo, New York, in 1996. Kiesbye now lives in Portales, New Mexico, where he teaches creative writing at Eastern New Mexico University. He is also the arts editor of Absinthe: New European Writing. His stories and poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and his first book, Next Door Lived a Girl, won the Low Fidelity Press Novella Award and was praised by Peter Ho Davies as "utterly gripping," by Charles Baxter as "both laconic and feverish," and by Robert Olmstead as "maddeningly powerful."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 Original edition (September 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143121464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143121466
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #346,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

STEFAN KIESBYE is the author of Next Door Lived A Girl and Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone. His new book, The Staked Plains, is available from Saddle Road Press. Stefan lives in Rohnert Park, California, with his wife Sanaz and their dogs Dunkin, Nozomi, and Kurt. He teaches creative writing at Sonoma State University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone has the flavor of a horror story, complete with the spectral creatures and gruesome events that fuel legends of the supernatural. Yet the most compelling horror is grounded in truth rather than legend. Stefan Kiesbye's novel addresses the horror of spite and malice, of mob violence, of child abuse and incest, of missing children, of kids being cruel for the sake of cruelty, of friends who betray each other for selfish ends, of homeless children who die in the cold for lack of charity. Who needs witches and werewolves when the world is filled with terrors like these?

The novel consists of a series of connected stories. It begins with the sparsely attended funeral of Anke, the final occupant of the von Kamphoff manor in the Village of Hemmersmoor. A widower named Christian Bobinski sets the stage with his description of Anke's funeral. The stories that follow are told from the perspectives of individuals who, like Christian and Anke, lived in Hemmersmoor during their childhood and adolescence. Their stories are set in a time when concentration camps had only recently closed, when Germany was newly divided by a wall.

Ghost stories and tales of the supernatural abound in Hemmersmoor. Horrible events have plagued the superstitious village residents -- or so the stories go -- from the heir to the von Kamphoff manor who mysteriously vanished (and is said to be wandering the manor's hedge maze) to the miller who sold his soul to the devil after Swedish troops tortured and killed his family during the Thirty Years' War. Do spirits and witches really roam the village? Is the village cursed? Or are the gossipy, mean-spirited villagers reaping exactly what they have sown?
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Mitchell on January 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had better say at the beginning that I know Stefan Kiesbye. We both write for the online magazine The Nervous Breakdown. I saw Christian's chapter about Rico's journey into Hell when it was a stand-alone piece, but I never saw the full novel nor any other chapters until they were published, which means I came to this book knowing almost nothing about it.

I'm not the first reviewer to point out that if you're expecting "gothic" or "horror" or "the supernatural" then you're going to be disappointed (as several reviewers were). It's true that the blurbs refer to Shirley Jackson and Stephen King (and the Grimms and others) but before I was very deeply into the book I felt as though I was in the worlds of Jerzy Kosinski ("The Painted Bird") and Cormac McCarthy ("Blood Meridian")-- novels filled with unspeakable acts related as ordinary behavior or excellent solutions to the problems at hand.

This is what Kiesbye's writing about.

Kiesbye doesn't write about "the supernatural." He writes about people who behave as if supernatural forces were not only real, but active participants in daily life. This is as much the case in the modern United States as in rural post-war Germany, but that's another matter.

You will not find wailing demons, witches, imps and sprites and more potent evil spirits in this book, but you will find people who believe in those things, and you'll see how those beliefs shaped their behavior.

This distinction ("the supernatural" versus "belief in the supernatural") is to me a simple and obvious one but it seems to have escaped many of the reviewers who didn't like the book.

I'm an anthropologist and so I'm used to thinking about how people can behave as if a supernatural world were real.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Matthew S Baker on October 24, 2012
Format: Paperback
* I received this book from the publisher, per my request, to review.

There's something so delightfully appalling about Stefan Kiesbye's YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE. Reading the book is like watching the aftermath of a bad car accident; you know you should turn away and go about your business...but yet your eye lingers as you subtly try to catch a glimpse of something you know you shouldn't see. It's this wicked subconscious that beckons when you pick up this book. And there's absolutely no reason to resist the temptation, either; indulging in this book will satisfy every immoral craving you might have.

YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE is a collection of decadently evil stories told from the perspectives of four children of Hemmersmoor, a village on the Devil's Moor. Each story is written in the first person, as if the children themselves are doing the telling, which makes each much more powerful.

This book is one of the best I have read so far in 2012. I have to admit that I was not familiar with author Stefan Kiesbye's work prior to this one but I will definitely be checking out everything else he has done. Needless to say, I am his newest big fan.

Kiesbye writes with an elegant yet simple style, which allows for total immersion into these tales. His prose flows smoothly, like aged cognac, and I never once found myself having to back-track in my reading. To say Kiesbye is a talented writer is like telling an eagle that it can fly well.

One of the most tantalizing aspects about YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE is that each story starts off so simple and innocently. But as the tale progresses, the reader can almost literally feel the dread and darkness as it sweeps into the story.
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