“Her desperation for her children’s silence manifested as a suffocating force, the desire for a pillow, a pair of thick socks, anything she could shove into them to perfect their muteness and save their lives.”
Experience the dark, scary and comic side of motherhood in Helen Phillips’ new novel, The Need. Molly is home alone with her two small children, Viv and Ben. Sleep deprived, she is holding down the household until her husband, David, gets back from a business trip. When she hears footsteps and then a flash of movement, she doubts her own senses, blaming it on her lack of rest and the exhaustion of the day. But she suddenly finds herself face to face with an intruder in her living room, a person who knows far too much about her and her family.
This mind-bending thriller forces Molly to confront her own frailties and to question the reality she thought she knew. I don’t want to give too much away as the twists and turns this book takes will leave you immersed in the story. But I will say that I took a lot from this book.
I recently turned 29 years old and the question of whether or not I want to have children has been steadily on my mind. I’m in a committed long term relationship with talks of getting married soon. (Personally, I would feel more comfortable having children with someone once married.) This book fell into my hands right before my birthday and I couldn’t help but acknowledge the coincidence.
Phillips’ portrayal of motherhood is beautiful and intensely real. She explores the dualities of raising children, the loose of self a woman can go through yet the fierce love she feels for these tiny humans that grew inside her. She showcases the dread, the joy, the fatigue, the monotony, the spiritual and physical connection and elation a mother can experience. All at once, sometimes. Phillips intertwines this with elements of horror and science fiction, which brilliantly showcase the complexities of being a mother.
In a recent interview with Phillips, she said, “when I was setting out to write [The Need ], I wasn't thinking about genre very much at all. I was just thinking, what are all of the tools at my disposal to express what this feels like— this emotional experience and this duality. I needed to borrow elements of science fiction to explore that in its fullness. I needed to borrow elements of thriller to have the propulsive plot. That for me echoes what it feels like sometimes to have young children. There's a lot of urgencies and you're trying to serve a lot of different needs both at home and at work.”
The Need is unlike any other novel, from a writer who has such a true and raw gift to create a genre bending tale with exquisite prose while exposing the ugly and the beauty of motherhood.
By Helen Philips
261 pages. 2019.