Book Review: The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags and Other Stories, Melanie Lamaga (2014)

Monday, March 24th, 2014

A Bewitching Collection of Short Stories

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review at the publisher’s invitation. Also, spoiler alert for the story-by-story summaries and trigger warning for rape and racism.)

If The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags and Other Stories isn’t my favorite book of 2014, it’s definitely my favorite collection of short stories. When Metaphysical Circus Press asked me to review a copy, I wasn’t sure what to expect. (Especially given the title. I’m a vegan, yo!) To say that Melanie Lamaga’s debut is a pleasant surprise is a gross understatement. The ten stories in this book are a lovely and imaginative blend of magical realism, supernatural fantasy, dystopian science fiction, and reimagined fairy tales – all with a distinctly feminist bent.

* begin spoiler alert! *

What Kind Are You? – “Names are important […] You let people call you the wrong one, you end up living somebody else’s life.” Shortly after her twenty-first birthday, Angel’s mom skips town. Runs out on her family, without explanation or warning. Shortly after that, the people closest to her start dropping dead – and Angel discovers what her mother already knew, that her name is more of a cruel irony than a term of endearment.

The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags – In which the world ends in a “tsunami of trash” (exemplified by the titular over-sized reptilian handbags all the rage) – and the mayor’s wife Winnie runs off with their maid Esmeralda, only to become a mayor’s wife once again.

(More below the fold…)