In the quiet suburbs, while Dorothy is doing chores and waiting for her husband to come home from work, not in the least anticipating romance, she hears a strange radio announcement about a monster who has just escaped from the Institute for Oceanographic Research…
Reviewers have compared Rachel Ingalls’s Mrs. Caliban to King Kong, Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, the films of David Lynch, Beauty and the Beast, The Wizard of Oz, E.T., B-horror movies, and the fairy tales of Angela Carter—how such a short novel could contain all of these disparate elements is a testament to its startling and singular charm.
Ingalls’ sly humor and lightness of touch keeps the reader off-guard as we grow increasingly worried about Larry’s fate. News reports portray him as a menace to people, but with Dorothy, we see him as solicitous and caring, a perfectly gentle creature. Merely reflecting on the story as I write brings back a pleasurable mix of the emotions I experienced during the reading, a sure sign of a great book.
Ingalls writes fables whose unadorned sentences belie their irreducible strangeness.
—Lidija Haas, The New Yorker
Thirty-five years old and it still outpaces, out-weirds, and out-romances anything written today.
—Marlon James, The Amazon Book Review
Imagine if Muriel Spark wrote science fiction and you’ll get close to what this book feels like: a triumph of tone, a tale of loneliness upended.
Indeed, as a feminist piece with a deep romantic core, that might best explain Mrs. Caliban’s ability to emerge as an unlikely literary classic. There’s the sheer entertainment factor — steamy Aquaman sex, anyone?—but then just underneath is a real depth, a quiet brilliance in its study of behavior and circumstance. It cuts through the noise, enlightening while also resonating, soothing in its dreamy surrealism. And isn’t that the perfect recipe for an enduring classic?
—David Canfield, EW
I’m obsessed with Mrs. Caliban, Rachel Ingalls’s perfect, short, bizarre, heartfelt, insane 1982 novel about a woman and a lizard.
[A] peculiar but wonderful and long-overlooked novella…
Perhaps Ingalls’s finest accomplishment in the novel is the unflappable gentleness of her tone, which records supernatural surprise and flaming horror simply, almost tranquilly. The result is paradoxically quotidian and dreamlike, like a fable or folktale.
—Los Angeles Review of Books
A slim surrealist masterpiece.
Thirty-five years old, it is fresher than most things written yesterday. I wish I could say that I have always known about it. Instead I confess to the zeal of a new convert. Every one of its 125 pages is perfect, original, and arresting. Clear a Saturday, please, and read it in a single sitting.
A love affair with a 6-foot-7-inch amphibian might not be every woman’s fantasy, but for Dorothy—the lonely housewife at the center of this soon-to-be-reissued 1982 novel—it’s working out just fine. A short, funny, bizarre novel that’s worth your time.
—Los Angeles Magazine
By marrying domestic realism with the literature of the bizarre, Ingalls brings tenderness to the monstrous and renders the recognizable utterly weird. Compact yet capacious, the novel wonders at all the ways we can desire and destroy one another. It’s unabashedly campy and deadly serious; it dares the reader to admit that these aims are not at all at odds.
Some writers make me laugh out loud; Rachel Ingalls makes me cackle. For her 1982 masterpiece, the short novel Mrs. Caliban, Ingalls takes a B-movie premise and pounds it into a thrilling new shape.
—Ed Park, Village Voice
Mrs. Caliban is one of my favorite novels in the world.
I loved Mrs. Caliban. So deft and austere in its prose, so drolly casual in its fantasy, but opening up into a deep female sadness that makes us stare. An impeccable parable, beautifully written from first paragraph to last.
As deranged as the whole thing is, Ingalls’s prose, strikingly austere, taps into a profound sadness, too: Is Mrs. Caliban a work of fantasy or are we inhabiting the psyche of a woman unhinged?…[B]egs to be read over and over again.
—The Paris Review
This book will have you tearing through it eagerly, and then wondering to yourself how such an odd, brilliant, improbable story ever got told.