Melissa Goodrich grew up in a dome on a hill in Minnesota, and now lives in the desert with her love and lazy Holland Lop. She received her BA in Creative Writing from Susquehanna University and her MFA in Fiction from the University of Arizona. Her stories have previously appeared in Gigantic Sequins, PANK, Artful Dodge, The Kenyon Review Online, American Short Fiction, and she has a chapbook of lyric poems published by 4th and Verse, If You What.
"If you follow your imagination far enough, you break through into the center of your own heart. This is trick not many have mastered; Melissa Goodrich does it every single time."
"In Daughters of Monsters, Melissa Goodrich picks up the world as we know it and spins it on the tip of her finger. She adds a bit of torque with each story, and you start to wonder if it's going to fall. It never does."
"These stories zoom toward our planet from the Oort cloud that is Melissa Goodrich's brain. The tales are prismatic and sweetly perturbing, and the language is lemniscate. Like your little brother and sister in a house of mirrors, Goodrich plays tag with your tongue. Tighten your Kuiper belt, sweethearts. This is a fabulous ride."
I'm a fan of literary fiction that dips into the strange. As much as character development can be interesting, characters arguing in coffee shops get dry after a while. Similarly, ghost can be entertaining, but weird occurrences by themselves don't always provide enough to really chew on. However, literary fiction that isn't confined to our precise everyday world can take advantage of the best of both while avoiding the respective drawbacks, being both entertaining and mentally stimulating. That's why I jumped at Daughters of Monsters by Melissa Goodrich, hoping to find enjoyment as well as something to think about.
For these aspects alone, Daughters of Monsters delivers. By way of example, "Lucky" centers on a young child fleeing with his family from a mysterious and immediately deadly toxic gas that is quickly sweeping over the country. The apocalyptic elements of the story were inventive and captivating, but the realistic behaviors of the characters give the story a great amount of depth. The behavior of the children is particularly interesting. The adults are panicking, trying to figure out how to save themselves. The children know what is going on, but they still react in the situation as kids. Deadly gas nearby; they are still playing:
Elsa goes sailing into the next room and jumps knees first into a beanbag sack and Eric and I surround her with the other beanbags, mashing them over her head and making her punch at us through them. Her voice is small underneath, and I kick her beanbag several times, and I like the games I can win.
Breathe! I dare her. I dare you to take a big breath in!
Then later when we’re done being jerks, the three of us lie on our bellies and wonder how long we have to live in our neighborhood together. The gas is already at the edge of the Carsons' property, three blocks down, and they up and left, the doors of their house wide open and definitely haunted. Their laundry gets up in the night and walks around the place, turns on faucets, locks and unlocks windows, punches holes in the screen door, rattles the chain link of the old dog fence.
This contrast between the situation and how the children behave, which is likely exactly how children would behave in such a situation, both adds tension as well as makes the story more than a simple apocalypse evasion story.
That kind of stepping outside the genres, as well as it's done here, is interesting enough on its own. Quite a few of the stories are interesting on a language level even beyond that, though. Perhaps it's Goodrich's poetic side creeping in, but there's an ethereal feeling to many of the lines that makes the rhythm and word choice at least as intriguing as whatever is going on, as in this section from the titular story:
Your mother throws her breasts over her back when she’s cooking so they won’t bother her. She’s boiling corn, she’s shucking it over the stovetop and she’s half-naked. Her hair’s in a towel. It’s hissing. Your boyfriend sneaks up behind her and takes a wallop of a suckle. Ew Henry, you tell him. Your mother turns around and says, Normally I would kill you but since you sucked my milk...merely whaps him with a broom. But she’s still thinking of killing you. You can see it in her eyes, the bugling way she watches you.
Your mother is a mystery. You don’t know how it is she lays eggs and makes milk. You don’t know how it is you look okay, your sister looks lovely, and the new baby your mother is making will be stunning, will be fire, will make hearts snap like celery. Your mother is wildly pregnant. Your mother never nursed you. Your mother packs you a basket with cheap wine and cold pancakes, hands you an ax, sends you outside, and you know your luck is beige.
I found the stories in Daughters of Monsters to be wild and wonderful, plenty to dazzle while still having plenty to think about. There's a great deal of poetry to the language of the stories as well, making them as intriguing on a microcosm sentence level as they are on a macrocosm plot level. Indeed, this book is interesting on a number of levels. I thoroughly enjoyed reading.