Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Women in Horror: The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson

* spoilers *

Molly Southbourne is not a normal child. Her parents keep her at their farm at all times, homeschooling her and never allowing her into the city. You might think it cruel, but the circumstances deem it necessary. Every time Molly bleeds, a complete physical copy of her is made. The new molly inevitably will try to kill her whether it's immediately or in a few days. Her first memory is of her father bludgeoning her double to death. At age 5, her parents teach her to fight and drill rules into her. Don't bleed. If you bleed, blot, burn, and bleach. If you find a hole (where a molly emerged), find your parents. Before this, the parents tried to keep it secret to keep Molly safe and free from fear, but it led to numerous lies and Molly almost being killed. At age 9, she is taught how to dismember a pig with minimal mess and risk to her for optimal molly disposal. Molly's inner monologue is analytical and cold, observing the small details about the world and people around her.

Everything changes at age 14 when Molly menstruates. She tries to hide the blood since it's forbidden, but it keeps flowing. Because her parents never thought to teach her about the inevitable changes in her body, 5 mollys try to murder her at once. Her parents are very loving and practical, but nor perfect. At 16, Molly explores herself and her abilities and pushes the boundaries set for her, making herself bleed on purpose and escaping to the city. Of course, she still has normal teen questions about her body. Eventually, she goes through a dark period where she allows her period to produce mollys and cuts herself daily both to provide emotional release and to produce mollys to kill. Normal parent and child mistakes could mean that someone dies instead of the normal emotional scars that everyone else has. Once 17 hits, Molly is back to adhering to the rules set by her parents and becomes emotionally stable once more.

The mollys affect everyone she is close to and eventually kills them. Months into college where she lives somewhere besides the farm for the first time, she finds her parents murdered by a hidden, starving molly. Two men have sexual relationship with her more for physical than emotional connection. When she finds out small mollys are forming inside of those men, Molly is rightfully distraught and wants to train a molly to be her so she won't inflict this pain anymore. These mollys are thought to be less than human, but their lives are brutally short. What makes them less human than Molly? These mollys are symbolic for the pain we inflict on the people around us. They all wear her face but have none of her emotions or personality outside of rage. In any relationship, you can't help but hurt each other in some way. This novel personifies this and attaches more danger to it. The emotional battles of life from small infractions to teen angst to huge blowouts become physical ones where lives are at stake.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne is a tale many can relate to despite its bizarre trappings. Living is pain and this novel examines if that pain is worth it by upping the stakes. The book is very short at only 128 pages and packed densely with this fascinating story. I was a little skeptical of a male writer with this story, but the story feels realistic despite the fantastical elements. The only thing that I could criticize is that Molly more introverted, less outwardly emotional, and more calculating to contrast with "normal" girls and many girls are like this despite societal pressure. Other than that minor detail, this novel hit me hard and I read the entire thing in one sitting.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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