Warning: You will lose sleep while reading Burn Our Bodies Down. Its a book that burrows into you like a restless itch, until you’ve read half in one gulp, gasping for air at the end. I yearned to unravel the puzzle that was Margot and the Nielsen women and the enigma that was the dusty small-town of Phalene. As I read my way up to the conclusion, I found more questions than answers, just like in Rory Power’s debut, Wilder Girls. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a satisfying read, just that the book felt like a string I kept pulling on, yielding more and more without an end in sight. Instead of a solid conclusion, I was left with the feeling that the story wouldn’t leave me and that Rory Power’s words had left an impression on me that I would never fully get rid of until I read the next book.
For those of you not familiar with the book. Burn Our Bodies Down is about Margot, a teenager, who flees the life she lives with her mother—a woman as mystifying and impenetrable as the past she never discusses—for the spotty hope of family in the town of Phalene, a town her mother left after she was born without a word. Her arrival is met with a mysterious fire on her grandmother’s land and the start of a chilling mystery that Margot believes is the reason her mother left the town eighteen years before.
Margot is bewildering at times, but I loved Tess, a bright character set against Margot’s moody narration. I loved the relationship, what was just teased—unapologetically queer. I just wish we had more time to see Margot and Tess throughout the whirlwind of the book but the pressure of what was really happening in Phalene and at the Nielsen farm took precedence, and as the readers were let in on Vera Nielsen and Jo Nielsen’s secrets, we readers weren’t able to think of much else!
With graceful prose and foreboding, the book stuns and thrills, toeing the line between outright horror and the grotesque. It also frustrates the reader in a way that speaks to how masterful Rory Power is as a writer. Her skill is in making us want more out of everything the book has to offer—more of the town, characters, more after the last page. I went into the book hoping it was like Wilder Girls, but found something as unique as the debut was and was happily content with how much I couldn’t stop reading, even if I lost sleep. Go into this with a few hours to spare or with all your lights on, curled up with someone who can bring you back to reality once you disappear into the story. You won’t regret delving into Rory Power’s words, but you will regret once it is over.