The Need

S. & S. Jul. 2019. 272p. ISBN 9781982113162. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781982113186. F
A woman confronts an intruder—and her own motherhood—in this gripping, shape-shifting second novel from Phillips (The Beautiful Bureaucrat). With her husband out of the country, paleobotanist Molly is home with their two young children when she hears footsteps coming from the living room. She’s ready to dismiss it as house noise and put the kids to bed until her daughter asks, “Who’s that guy?” The answer will shake Molly to the core and send her down a metaphysical rabbit hole that reads like a fever dream of every mother’s fears. Molly is convinced the fossil quarry she is helping to excavate has unleashed a sinister force and that one of the found objects—a Bible that suggests God is female—has led some suspicious visitors to the site. Whether Molly’s true enemy is real or a manifestation of her deepest anxieties is a lingering question that Phillips, with incisive detail and linguistic dexterity, suggests comes with the territory of parenthood.
VERDICT Is this literary work a story of magical realism, a straight-up horror novel featuring home invaders and shadow-selves, or a product of Molly’s exhausted imagination? Of course, it’s all of the above and makes for an unforgettable—and polarizing

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