The Need: Book summary and reviews of The Need by Helen Phillips

The Need by Helen Phillips X
The Need by Helen Phillips
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2019
    272 pages
    Genre: Thrillers

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Book Summary

From the award-winning author of The Beautiful Bureaucrat, comes a subversive genre-busting thriller about a woman who grapples with the complex dualities of motherhood - joy and dread, tenderness and anxiety - after confronting a masked intruder in her home.

There were footsteps in the other room...

So begins The Need, a sharp and haunting exploration of the joys and perils of modern motherhood. Molly is a paleobotanist who spends her days working at a fossil quarry where she sometimes unearths artifacts that defy understanding, including a controversial Bible that has recently attracted gawkers and conspiracy theorists. By night, she cares for her two young children—four-year-old Viv and one-year-old Ben—while her musician husband is away on tour. She's frazzled, sleep-deprived, and it seems the edges of her reality blur more each day.

When she hears an intruder in the house, Molly is desperate to keep her children safe. She confronts the figure in the deer mask—and discovers that this stranger knows everything about Molly and her family. Molly fears the most sinister motives even as she reluctantly, terrifyingly, acquiesces to the intruder's demands. What happens once she learns the true identity of the trespasser is chilling and otherworldy.

With tight, gorgeous prose and the urgent pacing of the best psychological thrillers, Helen Phillips unfurls a story that is at once cerebral and transcendent. The Need toggles between Molly's surreal work life and her harrowing home life, excavating deep truths about modern motherhood even as it poses provocative questions about the nature of the universe and the ethics of empathy. The hopes and heartaches of parenthood exposed in these pages, coupled with the gripping sci-fi speculation, makes for a haunting, propulsive, and unforgettable read from an author the New York Times calls "breathtaking and wondrous."

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A] superbly engaging read...Suspenseful and mysterious, insightful and tender, Phillips' new thriller cements her standing as a deservedly celebrated author with a singular sense of story and style." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"An unforgettable tour de force that melds nonstop suspense, intriguing speculation, and perfectly crafted prose." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The Need is a profound meditation on the nature of reality, a fearless examination of parenthood, and also somehow a thriller. This is an extraordinary and dazzlingly original work from one of our most gifted and interesting writers." - Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven

"Helen Phillips has created an existential page-turner that captures, with perfect sharpness, the fierce delirium of motherhood, the longing to understand the workings of our universe, and the wondrous and terrifying mystery that is time. The Need is a brain-bending heartbreaker of a novel, and definitive proof that Helen Phillips is one of the most spellbindingly original writers working today." - Laura Van den berg, author of The Third Hotel

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Author Information

Helen Phillips Author Biography

Helen Phillips is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award and the Italo Calvino Prize, among others. Her collection, And Yet They Were Happy, was also a finalist for the McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns Prize, and her work has been featured on NPR's Selected Shorts and appeared in Tin House, Electric Literature, Slice, BOMB, Mississippi Review, and PEN America. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at Brooklyn College and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.

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  • The Beautiful Bureaucrat jacket
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