THE REFRIGERATOR MONOLOGUES by Catherynne M. Valente – Review

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

THE REFRIGERATOR MONOLOGUES by Catherynne M. Valente – ReviewThe Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente, Annie Wu
Published by Saga Press on June 6 2017
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 160
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars

The nitty-gritty: A powerful collection of loosely tied together stories of the women who fell in love with superheroes—and died because of it.

I never wanted children. Let’s get that straight up top. All I ever wanted to do was to drink beer, play my horn, and ride mutant armadillos till the end of the world. But you don’t get to hit those high notes when you’re Queen of something. Hard to scream-sing fuck the man authority is deathpuke anarchy in Atlantis when your mom is, like, the entire government.

Reading a Catherynne M. Valente novel is always a treat for me. Her writing is the equivalent of listening to edgy slam poetry in a smoky bar, but in prose form. No one writes quite like her, and if you like the paragraph I’ve quoted above, then you really do need to pick up one of her books. Even better, her world building is some of the most unique I’ve ever read. I highly recommend Radiance if you have an open mind when it comes to quirky science fiction worlds.

But getting back to the book at hand, Valente once again proves she has extreme writing chops, an imagination that won’t quit, and a penchant for poking fun at tropes. The Refrigerator Monologues is a slim book comprised of six short stories, each one told by a girlfriend/side kick/lover of a male superhero. The kicker? All six women are dead and now reside in Deadtown, where they’ve formed a support group called The Hell Hath Club. They gather at the Lethe Café and take turns telling their stories of woe. Valente takes characters from familiar superhero stories, like Batman, Superman, etc., but gives them different names. Still, readers who are up on superhero lore will recognize them immediately.

In one of my favorite stories, for example, it was easy to identify Pauline Ketch as Harley Quinn, the brash and crazy (literally, she’s in an insane asylum) girl from Batman. Polly, as she calls herself, had one of my favorite voices, upbeat and slightly manic even as she’s telling us about her horrible life. We already know how Polly ends up—dead—but Valente goes into intimate detail about her weird and destructive relationship with Mr. Punch, and Polly’s death—like each of the other girls’ deaths—is almost anticlimactic (“And then he killed me. The end.”)

Each of the stories is preceded by a short interlude chapter that ties everything together, so the reader has the feeling that, like the book cover, each character is taking her turn at the mic, telling her sad story to an appreciative and sympathetic audience. The overall feeling was one of intimacy, although I have to admit that after hearing about the terrible lives of these six women, I had had enough. They all seemed to take their injustices in stride—beatings, verbal abuse, abandonment and more—and while I felt for them, I also wanted to shake each one and yell “What the hell are you thinking??” Which is the point, I guess. Women in the male dominated world of the superhero always seem to get the short end of the stick.

The book is lightly illustrated by Annie Wu, whose style fits perfectly with the comic book vibe. I loved having some visuals to go along with the narratives, and Wu nails the aesthetic.

What I didn’t get enough of, though, was Valente’s amazing world of Deadtown, which seriously, I could read a whole novel about. I want to go there myself, well, provided it’s only a short visit!

But in the end? Nothing is really resolved. Polly, Paige, Julia, Blue Bayou, Daisy and Samantha are still dead. In the final story, Samantha Dane reveals that she was killed and stuffed into a refrigerator, describing a term coined by comic book writer Gail Simone—“fridging”—which brings us back to the theme of this book. Valente’s characters may seem to be taking things in stride in the afterlife, but deep down they’re hurting and angry. The Refrigerator Monologues will make you uncomfortable, but maybe that’s a good thing.

Big thanks to the publisher and Wunderkind PR for supplying a review copy.

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Posted June 6, 2017 by Tammy in 4 stars, Reviews / 21 Comments

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21 responses to “THE REFRIGERATOR MONOLOGUES by Catherynne M. Valente – Review

  1. I’ve only read one of her books – but she is certainly a remarkable writer. Given the way women are treated around the globe – while seeming to lose ground in places where they were beginning to gain something close to equality, then maybe we should all be hurting and angry:(…
    sjhigbee recently posted…While the Morning Stars SingMy Profile

    • Tammy

      I agree, I think we sometimes forget that even though we’ve come a long way, nothing much has changed.

    • Tammy

      Yeah, I didn’t even talk about the humor. For me, the humor in this book made me uncomfortable because they seem so accepting of what’s happened to them.

  2. Here is another author I keep hearing great things about, and need to start reading *soon*: this might be a difficult book to start that exploration, because I sense there is much unresolved anger in the characters that I know would bleed from the pages, and yet it also sounds like the kind of challenge I would enjoy.
    This goes to the top of the “wanted” list, and thank you so much for a great review! 🙂
    Maddalena@spaceandsorcery recently posted…Novella Review: SERVANT OF THE CROWN, by Brian McClellan (Powder Mage 0.2)My Profile

  3. Radiance was brilliant but extremely weird so even if I want to read this book, I am a bit afraid I won’t like it all. The topic is hard and reading six stories about women being abused and completely overlooked by society probably isn’t a very “light” thing. I will read it but I hope it’s not too painful.
    Great review!

    • Tammy

      Yeah, this has a similar feel to Radiance, especially the quirky worldbuilding. But if you aren’t in the mood for a more serious, dark read, then this book probably won’t work for you.

  4. Yeah, I agree this kind of a strange book because it doesn’t really resolve or anything, and I know the author didn’t meant for it to be that kind of book but still, I definitely did not expect it to be so…well, defeatist. I think 6 short stories is the perfect number, any more and I might have been done in. I loved Deadtown as well, and wish there had been more world building!
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…Book Review: Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de CastellMy Profile

    • Tammy

      It’s definitely not your typical story with a plot and resolution, so if you’re OK with that you will enjoy it. I’m just a big fan of Valente’s writing so I’ll read anything she writes!

  5. I can’t wait for this. Comics can be so unkind to women and as much as we’re moving forward with titles like Bitch Planet and Lumberjanes, female characters are still easily disposable in a lot of titles. I want it in my hands right now! 😀
    Lorraine recently posted…Weekly MiscellanyMy Profile

    • Tammy

      Agreed, I think Valente did a great job of showing exactly what women are up against in most male-driven comics and hero stories. You’ll love this!

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