Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls

31979077It all starts with the radio. Dorothy’s husband, Fred, has left for work, and she is at the kitchen sink washing the dishes, listening to classical music. Suddenly, the music fades out and a soft, close, dreamy voice says, “Don’t worry, Dorothy.”

A couple weeks later, there is a special interruption in regular programming. The announcer warns all listeners of an escaped sea monster. The beast—who was captured six months earlier by a team of scientists—is said to possess incredible strength and to be considered extremely dangerous.

That afternoon, the seven-foot-tall lizard man walks through Dorothy’s kitchen door. She is frightened at first, but there is something attractive about the monster. The two begin a tender, clandestine affair, and no one, not even Dorothy’s husband or her best friend, seems to notice.

Review:

This is a weird book for me to review.  Part of that is because frankly, it’s a weird book.  A six foot seven lizard man shows up in Dorothy’s life, sweeps her off her feet, and… things… start to happen.

The writing itself is wonderful.  You can get a feel for Ingalls’ satire and wit from the very first lines:

Fred forgot three things in a row before he reached the front door on his way to work… He dithered for a few more minutes, patting his pockets and wondering whether he ought to take an umbrella.  She told him the answers to all his questions and slipped in several more of her own: would he need the umbrella if he had the car, did he really think it felt like rain?  If his car had that funny noise, couldn’t he take the bus instead, and had he found the other umbrella yet?  It must be at the office somewhere; it was a nice telescoping one and she suggested that someone else had walked off with it.

The first half, with the surreal meeting of housewife and lizard man, went down easy.  The second half, on the other hand, made me uneasy.  Prior events are called into question and you’re left wondering what to believe.  That’s fine, but either way it doesn’t change my perceptions about the characters much.  So let’s chalk Mrs. Caliban up as a “…huh.”  It may be a good idea to revisit it in 10 or 20 years to see if I feel the same way.