Unruly Creatures is aptly named, and it is as unusual and wild as the title forebears. Jennifer Caloyeras colors outside the lines in in this collection. The stories are at once beautiful and tragic, comedic and full of sorrow, as well as strange and telling. Each story is wildly original, and seamlessly comments on current events. Caloyeras’s talent shines through the pages of this collection, latching on to the reader and refusing to be put down.
In “The Sound of an Infinite Gesture” Conga the gorilla is getting a bad rep for acting up around school children. In fact, she flips the bird seven different times to one class before the students and teachers can be ushered out of the viewing area. Jan has recently been assigned to work with the gorilla, and she is excited for the opportunity, drawing readers up into the excitement with her. One night, Jan visits Conga after hours and the gorilla feels her up. Jan is horrified . . . or is she? Something shocking is brewing between the pair, something that, when acted on, may cost Jan everything.
Water—a resource taken for granted in most places. In “H2O” it’s the most valued resource in the world. It hasn’t rained in almost two years, and most citizens are fighting the death claws of dehydration. Well, that is, everyone except those rich enough to be part of the Sward Society and Tennis Club. Bunny Newton is the face of the club; she embodies the vanity of their excess and selfishness with ease, and even rubs it in the faces of those around her. Meanwhile, readers are also given the first-hand account of a mother trying to quench the never-ending thirst of her two children. It is clever, comical, and tragic in its potential foreboding of the issues that surround us today.
“I have little faith in God. God accidentally gave me a penis.” Jaime, the transwoman in “Roadkill,” finds herself in a men’s prison with no access to her hormone supplements, a timely story reflecting on the state of the prison system for incarcerated transgender people. Through the abuse and the harassment, she finds solace and companionship in the prison doctor’s “helper.” He is the only thing keeping her somewhat above water; but when his sentence is served, and she finds herself alone again, the loneliness may prove too much to bear.
“Unruly,” the namesake story, follows a teenage girl who can’t get her pubic hair under control. She comes home, having felt an itch in her pants all day, to find the hair falls from her overalls all the way to her knees. Knives, scissors, wax, and razors prove useless in taming the beast within her pants. Through this extreme situation, Caloyeras comments on the unruly and wild feelings of a body’s changes. Eventually the hair takes on a life of its own, escaping from Caroline’s overalls, and she has no choice but to let it go.
Jennifer Caloyeras holds a spotlight on the deepest, darkest corners, and reveals the colorful secrets that have been shoved away by all of us over time. Her writing is witty and musical, and her characters will linger in your mind like old friends. Unruly Creatures contains a truth that everyone needs to read. This collection will soar off the shelf, and stick permanently in the mind.