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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Harpy by Megan Hunter

This slim, intriguing book packs a punch, featuring revenge fantasies mixed with magical realism.

Lucy and Jake are the parents of two young boys. Lucy has sidelined her career to be home with the children, and she and Jake are settled into their routine of daily chores, a comfortable rhythm of longtime marriage, and few surprises. Lucy feels disruptively restless at times, but really, she figures, who doesn't?

Then Lucy receives a message that Jake, her reliable, predictable scientist of a husband, is having an affair with a colleague. A woman he'd invited to their home. Vanessa.

Lucy is undone, but she's resigned to finding a way to move forward. Jake and Lucy reach a tentative truce--with an enormous hitch. Lucy demands to be allowed to hurt Jake three times, physically or otherwise, and each time the act will take him by surprise. Then they'll be even, and all will be forgiven.

Lucy doesn't pull punches, as Jake's reputation and physical safety are both on the chopping block. The shift in their relationship's dynamic was intriguing to see on the page: Jake wonders when the next blow will come, while Lucy becomes almost dispassionate about the calculated harm she inflicts. When new information comes to light, the third and final act of revenge takes on even more weight, danger, and potentially devastating consequences.

The Harpy explores whether Lucy can forgive Jake's betrayal, even if he seeks penance and if her terms for punishment are met. Lucy finds herself transforming in her fury and desire for revenge, especially as further misdeeds are uncovered.

Hunter intersperses details of a long-term fascination on Lucy's part with mythology, and she also offers a layer of magical realism that is most present at the end.

Hunter's novel felt unexpected to me, especially in its tone, as the story metamorphoses through everyday predictability, heartbreak and anger, coldly enacted harm, and the magical elements. I'm also entranced and a little pleasantly horrified by that cover, including the blood drop hanging precariously from the Y.

Any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Hunter is also the author of The End We Start From, a post-apocalyptic novel about new motherhood in a futuristic London.

I mentioned this book in the Greedy Reading List Three Books I'm Reading Now, 1/18/21 Edition.


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