Remembering back to my high school days, the Latin classes I took introduced us to the world of mythology. The harpies were creatures with bodies that were half human having the face of a woman and the body of a bird. They were the harbingers of whirlwinds or storm winds. The Harpies were the supposed cause of disappearance, later morphing into the pursuers of evil doers. Cruel and vicious, they found pleasure at the torture of their victims. Some believed that they were the justice servers on men.
“I asked my mother what a harpy was, and she told me: they punish men for the things they do.”
Lucy has found out a terrible secret about her husband, Jake. He has been unfaithful with one of his coworkers. Receiving that phone call from the husband of Jake’s mistress, Lucy is devastated but as part of the process to fix their marriage, Lucy enters a pact with her husband where she can hurt him three times. As she tries to get some semblance of it all, she reflects on her life of being a mother to two boys, a wife, and the tie that holds the family together. She has many conversations with herself and we are left to see the harpy that Lucy is becoming. It’s at times hard to see where Lucy is as the Harpy takes over. Lucy wonders as most women do whose husbands have strayed, “Was I not good enough?”
She is an aggrieved woman seeking revenge and as she has enacted the punishments on her husband, Jake, each with increasing severity.
Lucy can become the harpy that she has been fascinated by over the years. She will punish Jake and hope that she will be avenged. However, will she? When the book ends, beautiful writing in all, there is no concrete solution. There are so many possible outcomes and Lucy is changing. The Harpy she has become is strong and one wonders how much revenge if any, she still will seek.
This book had the sense of the macabre, the ability to make the reader feel as unsteady as Lucy was. However, as she grows into a woman seeking not only revenge, we see a woman who is ready to see herself outside the terms of a wife and mother.
Recommended to those who enjoy a book that makes your thoughts flow, a book that has you pondering what you would do, a book that had no answers just the eternal question can this marriage be saved? You will definitely be unsettled after reading this story. Makes me wonder as well, do we all have a harpy within us?
and here’s the author:
Megan Hunter’s first novel, The End We Start From, was published in 2017 in the UK, US, and Canada, and has been translated into eight languages. It was shortlisted for Novel of the Year at the Books Are My Bag Awards, longlisted for the Aspen Words Prize, was a Barnes and Noble Discover Awards finalist and won the Forward Reviews Editor’s Choice Award. Her writing has appeared in The White Review, The TLS, Literary Hub, BOMB Magazine and elsewhere. Her second novel, The Harpy, will be published in 2020.