“Wollt ihr Geschichten, die euch wärmen in kalten, kalten Nächten? Wollt ihr nochmal Indianer sein? Wollt ihr Raketen? Ja, hier! Hier! Hier!”

What is this book about?

Vuurpijlen vangen (Wir haben Raketen geangelt) is a short story collection written by Karen Köhler. Her debut consists of nine stories, so it’s impossible to tell you what this book is about. I can give you some hints though: ‘Il Comandante,’ the first story in the book is about a woman who is in the hospital because she has cancer. Things aren’t going all that well between her and her boyfriend due to her illness, but then she makes un unlikely friendship with a 72-year-old Colombian-American born in Cuba who she calls the comandante. Basically all stories are about women who all have (had) to survive something

Why is it boring?

Well I don’t know about you, but nine out of ten times when I read a short story collection, I manage to get really into the story when it’s already over. So yeah, I know this sounds kind of bad, but why read separate stories that might be okay-ish when you can indulge in a big fat novel instead?

Who would you recommend it to?

Clearly the above is exaggerated. I’m not the biggest short story reader, but that’s more because of the ‘power of the novel’ and has nothing to do with me believing most collections are poorly written. Vuurpijlen vangen is definitely a must-read for everyone who loves stories about strong (female) characters who are basically survivors of anything. This might sound cliché, but it’s not. Köhler’s characters are all diverse and interesting. There’s nothing sad about them, even though every story has an emotional edge. When you’ve reached this so-called edge however, it only hits you with a tiny – but lasting – pang. If you’re into quirky and edgy stories about life that are funny and upbeat at the same time, then I can highly recommend this book to you.

Why should I read it if it’s boring?!

There’s a reason why I’m writing this review in English even though there isn’t an English translation available yet (sorry): I feel really strongly about this book and I really think that as many people as possible should read it. So, if you either don’t speak Dutch or German: buy a dictionary.
This having said, Karen Köhler has shown in her debut that she is a great writer and is truly awesome in writing short stories. What’s really impressive about this collection is that with (almost) every story, Köhler manages to lure you right in. Her stories read like tiny, complete novels. So if you’re not the biggest fan of short stories: do not disregard Vuurpijlen vangen, just give it a chance. I did too, and I loved it.
It’s a well-crafted collection that consists of stories that are diverse, but yet so similar. Another fun fact is that all stories interconnect: from the tiniest hint of intertextuality to, on a bigger level, the (already mentioned) strong female characters. Nothing in this collection has been left to chance.
Even though it’s nearly impossible to love every piece in a short story collection – ‘Vondeling’ felt a bit out of place and didn’t lure me in that much as others – Vuurpijlen vangen is definitely a must-read. Karen Köhler has a very unique and strong voice that should be discovered by as many people as possible. So go buy the book already, and if necessary, a dictionary, it will not disappoint!

Rating: 4/5

Written by Maritza Dubravac.

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Author

Maritza Dubravac was Bored to Death’s very first columnist. She writes about her life as a bookseller, hosts the YA book club with us and is a mean cook. She also writes for Books & Bubbles, Hebban.nl about books and even dabbles in food writing as an editor for Nadelunch.com.

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