Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, Franz Kafka, and Edgar Allen Poe, and tests the limits of fiction ... Often, what a writer doesn’t tell readers is as important as what she does tell them. Dávila, in addition to skillfully navigating elements that require a suspension of disbelief, perfectly executes this balance ... There are similarities across each of the stories within The Houseguest, but rather than being repetitive, they seem to complement one another, creating a conversation across stories ... Even when Dávila’s characters are at their most violent and insane, even when she’s at her most fantastical, her stories are wholly true.
Dávila embodies the shapeless terrors of the mind in bedrooms, basements and kitchen corners. Her inescapably bleak worlds are reminiscent of European fabulists such as Kafka and Schulz. In her fiction, the imagined can become terrifyingly real, and the real can seem imagined. She is a poet of dread and brilliantly articulates the ways it congeals and suffocates us until we are immobilised in its claws ... highly focused ... [Dávila's] intense and terrifying vision is confining—her stories darken, snuffing out hope rather than illuminating.
Dávila, who was born in 1928 and began publishing in the 1950s, could be summarized as Mexico's answer to Shirley Jackson ... Though Dávila's stories take place in Mexico, they do not work as ethnography. Readers wanting folkloric tales or tour guides into another country won't find that in these minimalist episodes ... Over and over again characters find themselves in danger, or in thrall to a horror that is not described, only hinted at ... It's hard to tell whether the characters are in fact assailed by terrifying entities or if they are simply losing their minds. After a while, there is a sameness to the proceedings (a horror which is not described threatens to plunge the protagonist into death or madness), but at her best, Dávila radiates an interesting sense of unease and calamity.