cover image In the Act

In the Act

Rachel Ingalls. New Directions, $17.95 (64p) ISBN 978-0-8112-3204-3

Ingalls’s funny and striking posthumous story (after the recent reissue of Binstead’s Safari) begins with housewife Helen wondering about the mysterious things her husband, Edgar, is doing in their attic. Helen and Edgar’s marriage is boring and routine, and Helen knows something is afoot with Edgar’s “experiments,” which he says aren’t dangerous, despite the frequent explosions and screaming. One day, Helen goes into the attic and discovers a lifelike robotic doll named Dolly, which, once turned on, is realistic enough to pass for an actual person. Helen, “quivering with rage, shame and the need for revenge,” responds by stuffing Dolly into a suitcase and storing her in an airport locker. The wild plot hits another gear when Ron, a two-bit criminal, steals Dolly from the locker. Ingalls (1940–2019) acutely explores the discontent burbling under the surface of a “normal” suburban home and tracks the weird ways it boils over, but there’s also a sly examination of how true love is more than just desire: it requires selflessness and sacrifice. Ingalls keeps things moving at a fast pace, and it all culminates in a dizzying, unforgettable finale. This odd little lark packs a sneaky punch. (July)