Helen Phillips knows how to grab your attention. My pulse was already quickening on the very first page. I had to read as much of it as quickly as I could; the chapters are snappy and taught. I had to stop myself from skimming to the bottom of every page. I was desperate for relief; chapters whip back and forth between the present and several hours ago and I just had to know what nasty break was waiting for me in the present. My distress was welcome; the adrenaline rush coursed through me while I ripped through this novel. I read it in the bath. In one sitting. I had to refill the hot water three times. My husband went to bed without me. I needed to know where all of this was going.
My distress was nothing compared to that of Molly, our protagonist. She is tired. Her tiredness is near-mythical; her exhaustion is palpable and terrifying. She’s a mother to two young children. She’s alone with the children for the week while her husband works overseas. She’s a paleobotanist working in an archaeological pit that used to be a gas station, and she has made some concerning finds. There are things in the pit that are not fossils. There are bits of toys and trash that are not quite right. These findings have brought a ton of unwanted attention. She needs to know why these things are in the pit. She needs to get some sleep. She needs to plan a birthday party for a four-year-old. She needs to get some sleep. She needs to know the difference between a siren wailing and her son crying. Are they the same? Are those footsteps in the house? Who is in her house? She needs to get some sleep.
I do not want to tell you anything else. I want you to need to know what happens next. It’s been two days since I finished this, and I need to get some sleep.