What’s Necessary Women all about?:
She was fourteen when she watched mother die. With her mother gone, her father told her she had to be the woman of the house. And then he went away for six months. Now she’s got a surprise for him…
What did I think?:
On reading the short synopsis of this story I was instantly intrigued (plus Karin Slaughter is one of my favourite thriller writers) and looked forward to diving right in. Now, I am quite familiar with the author’s writing style and suspected that this tale might have something of the macabre about it but oh my goodness, she still managed to shock me. I’m very wary of giving too much away about Necessary Women so I’ll try and keep this review as short and spoiler-free as possible.
The main character in this story is a fourteen year old girl whom when we come across her is watching her mother die in one of the most gritty and explosive openings in all of Slaughter’s work:
“I was fourteen years old when I watched my mama die. Her pale skin turned pasty as she clutched her throat, blood seeping through her fingers like she was squeezing a sponge instead of trying to hold onto her life.”
The reader is then taken back in time and shown the girl’s life with Mama before her untimely death. They are not happy, the girl freely admits this but they try their best. Her father is a long hauler and is often working away for sometimes months at a time so they are often left to manage on their own. Before long, it is obvious to the reader that Mama is not happy in her marriage and she begs her daughter not to end up like her although it might be a bit too late for the sex education talk as our narrator is already pregnant. When her mother passes away her father tells her that she has to take over as the “woman of the house,” and must do all the jobs necessary for a woman to do (hence the title). Our narrator is not very good at looking after herself and is often hungry but makes sure that she puts on a good spread whenever her father is due home. She ends up giving up school and gives birth to a baby “with one arm and a knob where a left foot should have been.” The cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck and she buries her in the garden, begging God to allow her into heaven.
That’s all I’m going to say about the plot as I think this story is best experienced by actually reading it yourself. It is definitely all those good things a short story should be – thrilling and unputdownable with twists on multiple levels and Karin Slaughter’s trademark horrific imaginings. This was another one of those stories that I immediately went back to the beginning and started again to find out what I had missed (and also because of those last few lines which led to a shriek of “What?!” from yours truly). It was so surprising and so shocking that it completely reminded me why I’m a fan of this author. She accomplishes everything a good short story writer should in just a few pages and I’m sure like me as soon as you read this you’ll also be shaking your head in awe of her writing.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales