Erica Adams’ collection of short stories is a fantastical romp of contemporary fables that are at once completely fresh, and also seem to have sprung from a bygone era. The through-line in “The Mutation of Fortune” is a female character who slides easily between human and animal form. She stumbles through perpetual danger and yet always survives.
Adams’ first story, “The Girl Without,” sets the tone for this young woman’s various perilous adventures. Her father removes her hands and replaces them with metal, “of more value than before!” He removes her feet and replaces them with stone, and so on. Adams cleverly approaches and reappropriates a variety of mythologies and fairy tales, beautifully capturing the mystery and creepiness of beloved Grimm stories. At the same time, she subverts those ancient tales by casting a strong and almost willfully oblivious female protagonist, not just a friend of animals, like Snow White or Cinderella, but an animal herself, mutating into bird or rat or dog.
Family permeates the stories: fathers, mothers and the jealousies and fierceness of sibling devotion. In “The Well,” the young woman collects stamps which she organizes by animal and “degree of ferocity”; her brother obsessively reorganizes them alphabetically—“he will put a lemur next to a lion!” This very short story not only addresses the complexities of siblings, the mania of organizing, and Adams’ ever-present animal theme but blends the absurd with the familiar, the agony and acceptance of our sibling differences.
The reader may pause to ponder the difference between poetry and prose as they read:
To be eaten means: to have intimate knowledge of. I told you, the wolf ate me, and what I meant was: the wolf loved me.
The body that enters the mouth of another is a sacrament. It is divine. I slipped in and heard, in my inner-most ear, Grandmother’s voice:
This is what happens when two become one.
Published by Chicago’s The Green Lantern Press, “The Mutation of Fortune” is a small collector’s edition featuring color images of collages created by the author to accompany the stories. Each book cover is hand-silk-screened by local artist Aay Preston-Myint. This small book feels like a gift, a wonderful journey through a series of sophisticated fairy tales. (Kelly Roark)
“The Mutation of Fortune”
By Erica Adams
Green Lantern Press, 126 pages, $20