Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power is a weird, creepy novel filled with a lot of anger. So. Much. Anger. Anger at mothers. Anger at men. Anger at climate change. Anger about secrets. It is as if Ms. Power used her novel as a form of therapy and unburdened her soul by exorcising her personal demons through novel writing.
At its heart, Burn Our Bodies Down is about relationships between mothers and daughters, and it is no easy tale. In fact, one might find the story triggering given Margot’s experiences with her mother and later her grandmother. Her feelings of impotence, of balancing on a wire, and of navigating the minefield that is her mother’s moods are difficult to experience even for a reader who may have the best of familial relationships. For someone whose childhood memories are less than ideal, I can only imagine how brutal these relationships would be.
There is a fantasy/science fiction element to the story I did not expect and do not entirely welcome. For a novel so steeped in emotion, the use of something otherworldly lessens the reasons behind those emotions, making them almost moot. The story would be much more powerful if there were a realistic cause at the heart of the mystery, not only because it would not require a suspension of disbelief but also because it would give credence to everything the characters feel.
For a story with such strong emotions, Burn Our Bodies Down has a truly disappointing ending. There are little closure and little reconciliation. Add to that the inclusion of some weird science/otherworldly happenings on the family farm, and you wonder just what Ms. Power was trying to do with her story. It is neither a coming-of-age nor a horror story, although it has vestiges of both. Unfortunately, this is one novel in which the combination of two genres does not work well at all.