Review: The Need

The Need

The Need
By Helen Phillips
Simon & Schuster, 9781982113162, July 2019, 272pp.

The Short of It:

I’d be lying if I said I fully understood everything that went on in this novel.

The Rest of It:

Molly is a scientist. I believe a paleobotonist if I’m remembering correctly. She spends her day analyzing fossils and giving tours to people curious about her team’s findings. Of late, some strange things have shown up in the pit, including an alternative Bible where God is a “she”, a shiny penny, and some pottery pieces. These items are odd enough to draw an interesting crowd. Religious fanatics begin to show up along with dozens of pieces of hate mail.

When not at work, Molly is completely overwhelmed by motherhood. One morning, while her husband is away on business, she finds herself scrambling for safety within her own home when an intruder shows up and threatens the well-being of herself and her two young children.  An intruder, wearing a deer’s head mask.

This is a bizarre read. It’s labeled as speculative fiction and I would agree with that. I honestly did not know what the heck was going on. Is Molly out of her mind? Is she dead? Dreaming?  On drugs? What? In a short amount of time, the identity of the intruder is revealed and then it gets REALLY weird.

Without giving anything away, I will say that if the point of the novel is to emphasize how motherhood can completely overtake you and change you both physically and mentally, then Helen Phillips accomplished that. Molly’s adventures in motherhood completely drain her. She is literally sucked dry by her breastfeeding son, and her daughter’s astute observations of what is going on serve to remind Molly just how much her brain has turned to mush since becoming a mother. This part, is very accurate.

But the rest of the story is very Twilight Zone-ish and odd. Some of it was disturbing to read only because it made me uncomfortable. Much of it is raw and blunt. The scientific element was interesting but not fully explored. I hesitate to say that this would be a good book for a club to discuss because I can see many hating it. Especially those who have never been a mom. But, it’s odd enough and pieced together in such a way that it warrants a discussion. In that sense, it would be great book to discuss.

Have any of you read it? From the cover, I thought the story would be about alien plants. Seriously.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

18 thoughts on “Review: The Need”

    1. I know! I am trying really hard to keep up the momentum with production week and all. I am on book 9 for the year. My last book almost derailed me though. Bunny, that’s what it’s called. Horrifying.

  1. You are definitely on a roll with your reading. I think this was nominated for a book award last year. Piqued my interest, but wouldn’t be a good one for the mystery group and probably not for the other ‘regular’ group I attend. Now I’m curious and might have to seek it out.

    1. There is a lot to discuss and yes, I think it was a National Book Award winner. But as an immersive read, it’s a bit strange.

  2. I received an ARC, but truthfully, I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to read it. After your post, I’m thinking its not for me. Oh well. Definitely sounds like there are some interesting aspects – like, who’s the guy in the deer head?

    1. It’s so bizarre. One cover, I think the UK cover has the deer head on the cover. Makes more sense. Although this lady is a scientist the plant thing was minor. Very minor so the cover is misleading. Unless symbolically it represents something else. The story is very primal.

    1. I do remember you reading it and I just re-read the review and yes, we had very similar reactions to it. As a mom, I remember my daughter and her breastfeeding days. She was a vampire and I was pumping such large amounts at work that my doc actually thought I had a pituitary gland tumor! I did not but I was so depleted and so sleep deprived. She only slept about 1.5 hours a night until she was about four months old. If I had seen a guy with a deer head mask in my living room, I would not have have even batted an eye. I was that tired. So, I do feel as if Phillips nailed that part.

  3. I thought the same thing, book club-wise. I’d love to have my club read it but I know it’s so far out of most of their comfort zones and I can only push so far.

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