Speculative fiction of the highest calibre: one woman fights to retain her sense of self amidst the chaos of work, motherhood and alternative universes.
Molly is exhausted, anxious, losing her grip on reality. Her husband is away and she is running between her children and her job, where things are unravelling. She’s a paleobotanist, working at a fossil quarry, and has recently unearthed artefacts that defy understanding; the coke bottle with the lettering that leans the wrong way, an alternative version of the Bible. Where do these things come from?
At home, as dusk falls, she gets jumpy. Are those footsteps out in the hall? What was that noise? She holds her two small children close to her, and tries to pull herself together. But her worlds of work and home are about to collide. She discovers that the stranger in her sitting room knows everything about her life and, as their identity becomes chillingly clear, this intruder makes a demand of Molly that upends everything, forcing her to reckon with her most unspeakable fears.
The Need is a gripping, unsettling and stunningly original story that probes deep truths about motherhood, and explores grief, loss and how we treat others. It’s a compulsive, reality-warping novel that makes us rethink our world, and question how far we would go to protect the ones we love.
“A dark fable about delirium and doubling that takes the terrifying vulnerability of motherhood and transforms it into something dangerously sinuous and entirely uncanny.”
“Like parenthood itself, The Need is frightening and maddening and full of dark comedy... Phillips, as careful with language as she is bold with structure, captures many small sharp truths.”
Harriet Lane, The New York Times
“The Need, the eerily gorgeous new novel by Helen Phillips, fills the void, offering up the perfect, insightful look into the way motherhood warps the world around you… Phillips brilliantly captures the dissonant dualities of being a mother: the ways strength is matched with fragility, tenderness with ferocity, nurturing with palpable, almost riotous need.”
“This book held me hostage, invaded my dreams and my waking thoughts, and readjusted my brain; Phillips is, as always, doing something at once wildly her own and utterly primal. Maybe it doesn't surprise me that the strangest book I've read about motherhood is also the best, but it does thrill me.”
Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers
“A novel Shirley Jackson might write if she’d dropped acid with Rivka Galchen.”
Hillary Kelly, Vulture
“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… [A] superbly engaging read—quirky, perceptive, and gently provocative.”
Kirkus Reviews (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
“Helen Phillips is one of the most exciting young writers working today, and I envy those who get to discover her work here for the first time.”
“I love Helen Phillips's wild, brilliant, eccentric brain. Her vision flashes down like a lightning bolt into everyday terrors.”
“Helen Phillips sings like a Siren on the page (if a Siren also had a killer sense of humor).”
“Helen Phillips is a funny, subversive, enigmatic, melancholy wonder.”
“The Need is a spellbinding novel, both unsettling and irresistible. The best fiction finds the uncanny within the familiar; it makes us feel the fantastical undercurrent of our embodied lives. With exquisite economy and evocative prose, Phillips manifests the surreal, terrifying, and visceral experience of motherhood.”
Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others
“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
“This is a book about the biggest things you can imagine--the dreadful potentiality of life, the fierceness of love, and the terrifying and exhilarating mystery of motherhood. Helen Phillips writes at the nexus of science fiction and psychological realism, conjuring a narrative so mind-bending and immersive that it'll change what you see as real. She is an author at the height of her power, and we are so lucky to be living in her moment.”
Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine
“From the opening sentence, The Need sucked me in (I read it in one sitting) and then spat me out at the end, feeling dazed and slightly off-kilter in the best and most pleasurable way. Phillips evokes with astoundingly masterful prose the lengths to which a mother will go for her children. At once a fast-paced thriller and psychologically astute literary novel, the intensity of the plot is leavened with moments of startling tenderness. Bravo.”
Kate Christensen, author of The Last Cruise and The Great Man