It was the book's cover and elegant presentation (so many other books today insist on cramming as many words as possible into small paperbacks, making them almost unreadable no matter how good the prose is) which compelled me to buy it. The text is easy on the eyes and doesn't feel heavy; this is due to both, the author's economical writing style, and the clean, pristine font the publishers used to print her words. I had never heard of Halli Villegas before I read this collection, but I liked what I read. Most of the stories are short enough to read between school or work breaks, and the ones that aren't never drag on for a second.
That being said, the collection isn't without its flaws, though none of them dampened my overall enjoyment of it. Villegas's prose, I feel, is absolutely impeccable and almost poetic without being too wordy. Every story, even the ones I did not particularly like, content-wise, were a joy to read; not once did my eyes get tired and not once did the stories bore me.
Some of the stories in the collection, however, do tend to cross the line between what is "traditional" and what is "cliché" in the Horror genre. The opening piece, for example (the title piece, no less), is entirely predictable from its beginning to its end. It sets a properly somber mood throughout, yes, but the seen-it-a-thousand-times-before storyline prevents it from being great. Another story, "The Beautiful Boy," also falls into cliché territory, though this one is much more effective in its execution, and probably one of the most memorable stories of the bunch.
Other stories, such as "D in Underworld" and "Rites," tend to lean more towards character-based, literary fiction rather than Horror-based genre fiction (and I have every right to complain! The book was sold in Border's Horror section). D in Underworld is properly unsettling, but utterly unfulfilling by its conclusion. A few other stories in the collection suffer from this.
Villegas also seems to have a tendency to portray immigrants and minorities in a rather unflattering light; sometimes this happens in an apparent attempt to make a character either unlikeable or somewhat bitter, but the same angle strangely repeats itself several times throughout the collection. I suppose this only makes the stories more realistic; sometimes, it even works to great effect, as is the case with "The Other Side," a good story somewhat handicapped by a predictable twist.
Some of my favorite stories in the collection include: "Salvage (gave me shivers; more than I can say for most mainstream Horror fiction)," "The Family (it falls more into the Literary side of the collection, but I still enjoyed it immensely)," and "While He Sleeps (a ghost story from the ghost's point of view)," among others.
The book includes nineteen stories. Some of them feel like filler, some of them feel utterly trivial, and some of them are absolutely fantastic. But not one of them is hard to get through. Halli Villegas seems to have mastered a writing style so utterly unpretentious, so beautiful and so...sparse...that she makes every single story in the collection worth reading at least once, if not many times; so, I give credit where credit is due.
I recommend The Hair Wreath and Other Stories for fans of subtlety and restraint in their Horror; although, I should mention, from a devoted Clive Barker fan, this collection was a pleasure to read; so don't discredit it even if you like your Horror graphic! Give it a chance; it might surprise you.