Animals are animals, and humans are animals too in Reid's imaginative debut collection of 13 stories and eight pieces of flash fiction (here called bestiaries).
A bestiary is traditionally a tale about animals, usually offering a moral lesson. In Reid's fictional universe, animals are everywhere, but more often than not, they symbolize nothing. In "Happy You're Here," the collection's strong first story, a dead whale, washed up across from the hospital where the narrator's mother is dying, is reduced to a sad spectacle. People come with picnic baskets in anticipation of the body being blown up and, later, hack it to pieces. The story's final image—"flying blubber like falling stars"—is both poignant and hilarious. Elsewhere, we see her characters’ misguided attempts to make everything in the natural world reflect human matters. "Summer People" features Shasta, a newlywed whose life feels claustrophobic. When she frees her creepy neighbor's parrots because "it felt good, like she was doing something good," she realizes too late that she's done the birds no favors. In "Anatomy Is Destiny," a woman on a sexy weekend with her lover becomes convinced that hummingbirds are talking to her instead of owning her own discomfort with her icky boyfriend. In fact, most animals are utterly indifferent to human concerns, as Reid shows in many of her darkly comic bestiaries. The real beasts in these magical stories are, of course, humans: creatures of lust and cruelty, deception and selfishness. But Reid, to her great credit, doesn't resort to cynicism. In the collection's strongest stories ("The Permutations of A," "Adventures in Wildlife," and "The Rapture Index"), Reid reveals a talent for discovering the humanity of her flawed human characters.
Promising work from a writer interested in all creatures, great and small.