By Helen Phillips
Published July 9, 2019 by Simon and Schuster
When Molly, home alone with her two young children, hears footsteps in the living room, she tries to convince herself it’s the sleep deprivation. She’s been hearing things these days. Startling at loud noises. Imagining the worst-case scenario. It’s what mothers do, she knows.
But then the footsteps come again, and she catches a glimpse of movement.
Suddenly Molly finds herself face-to-face with an intruder who knows far too much about her and her family. As she attempts to protect those she loves most, Molly must also acknowledge her own frailty. Molly slips down an existential rabbit hole where she must confront the dualities of motherhood: the ecstasy and the dread; the languor and the ferocity; the banality and the transcendence as the book hurtles toward a mind-bending conclusion.
In The Need, Helen Phillips has created a subversive, speculative thriller that comes to life through blazing, arresting prose and gorgeous, haunting imagery. Anointed as one of the most exciting fiction writers working today, The Need is a glorious celebration of the bizarre and beautiful nature of our everyday lives.
The first third of The Need was unbelievably gripping and visceral. I was intrigued and filled with dread as I read it. Molly is a paleobotanist excavating a pit that has fossil plants and some very odd artifacts, including a toy solder with a monkey tail, an Altoids box that doesn’t look quite right, and a Bible in which God is a woman. She’s caring for her two small children on her own while her husband is out of town. One night, as she’s getting the children ready for bed, she finds an intruder wearing a deer head mask in her living room.
This is such a great start to the book, but for me, the rest of the book didn’t quite live up to it. The reveal of who is under the mask is fascinating, but the momentum of the story slows down at that point and never really regains the gut-punch effect of the first 75 pages. That said, this was still a four-star book for me because it was really gripping and because it’s the most honest, realistic portrayal I’ve ever read of life with small children: the joy, the drudgery, the transcendence. This quote sort of sums it up:
There it was: the bliss, the halo, the guilt at her richness. The ecstasy of the ordinary. Two, alive. This freshly peeled piece of the universe nuzzling into her.
This book is beautifully written and perfectly evokes the state of caring for small children.
I received an ARC from the publisher through Amazon Vine.