It’s not often that I purchase a book solely because of the cover. I recently made an exception to this rule when I saw Helen Phillip’s “The Need.” Visually pleasing and alluring, the cover depicts a silhouette of a woman filled in by foliage. “The Need” tells the story of a mother, Molly, home alone with her two young children when she hears the noise of an intruder inside her home. As the story progresses, it seems as if the intruder knows too much about her family. Molly attempts to protect her two children from this unknown threat while simultaneously coming to terms with her own weaknesses. “The Need” falls within the genres of thriller and horror.
Helen Phillips has also written “The Beautiful Bureaucrat,” “Some Possible Solutions” and “Yet They Were Happy.” Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Phillips’ writing is that she creates a world that is very similar to our own, yet has slight differences that somehow cause ripples within the fabric of existence.
Before starting, I would just like to say that this is a spoiler free review. “The Need” is a different kind of horror than we usually see. Rather than relying on grotesque descriptions of gore, this book showcases the horrors of motherhood, or rather the fear that comes with being a mother. On the first page of the book, readers are thrown directly into Molly’s home invasion, with every other chapter taking place earlier in the day. This clever technique adds quite a bit of suspense to the story as readers are forced to learn about earlier events in Molly’s day before continuing on in the present. This novel ends up existing as something so much more than an intruder breaking into a woman’s house; it focuses on the isolation of motherhood.
“The Need” starts off as a genuinely terrifying novel, but as the story progresses, the novel loses the horror aspect within the home intruder element. That being said, the first 40 or so pages of the novel are more than enough to inspire a deep sense of dread within the reader, so much so that after reading these pages, I decided that reading this book at night was a bad idea. As I mentioned, the story quickly progresses past this element as the novel unveils its first plot twist. Phillips masterfully created a truly unexpected plot twist — a plot twist which readers should have seen coming, yet somehow evaded detection.
Despite the promising beginning of this novel, I couldn’t help but feel more than a little dissatisfied with the ending as it sort of fizzles out. Ending very ambiguously, the novel leaves several mysteries unsolved. This may just be a preference of mine, but I don’t really care for stories that leave you with more questions than answers. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and Phillips’ unique writing style. “The Need” is available at all major book retailers.