“Robin McLean’s Reptile House introduces us to a debut author of audacious originality." -- Peter Connors, BOA Editions.

Robin McLean's award-winning debut short story collection Reptile House is inhabited by killers and thieves, astronauts, moose hunters and country club ladies, all seeking some way out, some new door to imagined happiness.

The characters in these nine stories abandon families, plot assassinations, nurse vendettas, tease, taunt, and terrorize. They retaliate for bad marriages, derail their lives with desires and delusions, and wait decades for lovers. How far will we go to escape to a better dream? What consequences must we face for hope and fantasy? McLean's stories probe the underbelly of human behavior, revealing the darker motivations behind the chilling interactions she breathes to life. The stories are strange, often disturbing and funny, as full of foolishness and ugliness as they are of the wisdom and beauty all around us.


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Winner of the BOA Editions Fiction Prize -- May 2015.

A Best Book of 2015, The Paris Review "McLean does not shrink the world down to interpersonal conflict, but instead opens it up to achieve a cosmic perspective that somehow feels both dispassionate and compassionate (Chekhov’s trick). This opening up is wild, surprising, and not a little frightening. I suppose you could call these stories dark, but in their dazzling perspective I find them full of vitality and wonder."

"Like [Flannery] O’Connor’s work, Reptile House is rife with moral ambiguity and extreme violence—elegantly written, abruptly erupting, and starkly moving—as well as other forms of human and inhuman darkness. . . . But there is unadulterated joy in Reptile House, and it lies in the inventiveness of McLean’s language. Her prose is energetic and lyrical without excising ugliness . . . This skill with language makes possible the stories’ portraits of human beings, so revealing in their unsentimental bleakness, and it is in this unique style that the worldhood of Reptile House emerges. . . . To read Reptile House is to dwell in a broken, funny, frightening, possibly doomed world—a world that may help us to read and live in our own." -- Nathan Goldman, THE KENYON REVIEW

"Tonally and structurally, these marvelous stories have no discernable influences. In her debut collection Robin McLean emerges as a writer with singular voice and vision. I admire this book immoderately, and I hope that readers will find it."
--Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special, U.S.! and Abbott Awaits

Robin McLean's fiction is harrowing and wry and compassionate, and always both fiercely rooted in the world and fearlessly willing to take chances. I love her keen sense of our inherent strangeness, and her heartening sense of just how important it is that we never stop trying to close the gap between who are and who we aspire to be."
-- -- Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron, You Think That's Bad,and Like You'd Understand Anyway,.

"I haven't read a book this dark and frank and sublimely written in a while. Maybe since Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men." -- Alden Jones, author of Unaccomanied Minors and The Blind Massuese.

"...a dazzling debut that signals the arrival of one of fiction’s most compelling new voices." Colorado Review

“'Unnatural, unprecedented, as far as we know'...could just as well be describing this collection." The Common

"Spare and darkly poetic. Publishers Weekly

"McLean has a knack for stunning sentences that resonate with her characters’ circumstances....The third-person narrators frequently zoom out, locating the present moment within a cosmic frame. The effect is tragicomic." Kirkus

"When you read Robin McLean's stories, she's gonna get you. She will take you out into deep, and then deeper, water."
-- --Noy Holland, author of Spectacle of the Body, Swim for the Little on First and forthcoming Bird: A Novel .

"Robin McLean's debut collection is electric."
-- Jodi Angel, author of You Only Get Letters From Jail.

"The book is so wonderful. It's full of (almost) unbearable tension and what a wild ride through so many worlds."
-- Kathy Anderson, author and playwright of Next Door Gay-bors and Front Row Seat.

"Robin McLean writes in wonderful cascades of language. Her characters are carried along by those cascades, often unwittingly. Sometimes, as with the two young men in “No Name Creek,” they are carried to a happy end. More often, they seem to be, like Lilibeth in “Cold Snap,” overtaken by events beyond their control. Characters’ own words, often inept or pathetic in light of their situations, offer ironic counterpoint. Much is laughable in these stories. Don’t be deceived. Through her sly wit and humor, Robin McLean is luring readers into deeper questions."
-- Frank Soos, author of Unified Field Theory and winner of the Flannery O'Connor Prize.