Tag Archives: National Book Award Longlist

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.

Review: Did You Ever Have a Family

Did You Ever Have a Family

Did You Ever Have a Family
By Bill Clegg
Gallery/Scout Press, Paperback, 9781476798189, May 2016, 320pp.

The Short of It:

Grief is processed in many different ways and Clegg manages to capture all of them in this beautifully written novel.

The Rest of It:

On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is forever changed when she loses her daughter, her daughter’s fiance, her ex-husband and her boyfriend in a tragic accident. Losing what is essentially her entire family, June packs her car and heads to a town where she can be alone for awhile.

Each character plays a role in the telling of this story. Some characters are more superfluous than others, yet all of them are important to the end result. As June makes her way across the country, other people also affected by this accident, are forced to come to terms with their own grief.

This is a tragic story about an imperfect family trying to come together to celebrate this joyous day and instead what they have is pain, sorrow and regret over what they didn’t say or didn’t do. There are beautiful, touching moments between these characters which makes the reading more an exploration of grief than a sad, heavy story about loss.

I really loved how the story came together at the end. It was a very satisfying read as far as books go and my book club had plenty to discuss. I highly recommend it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.