Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
The Woman, by Jack Ketchum and Lucky Mckee, is a direct sequel to Off Season and Offspring. These novels focused on a family of feral cannibals living along the coast of Northern Maine. The Woman continues the story of the sole cannibal to have survived the run in with law enforcement at the conclusion of Offspring. She is injured and alone in the Maine wilderness.
Before she can heal, the feral cannibal woman is captured by Christopher Cleek, a lawyer and avid hunter. Cleek is not a moral man. Rather than going to the authorities with the woman, he decides to confine her to his fruit cellar. Here he will attempt to domesticate the woman, as well as use her for his own perverse pleasures. Soon, the whole Cleek family is on the scheme, as the feral woman is forced to come to terms with horrors of civilized men.
In many ways, The Woman is a spiritual successor to The Girl Next Door. The horror does not come from the cannibal menace, but rather the Cleek Family, particularly Christopher and his son – Brian. Thematically, the narrative plays upon the notion of: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
The story reveals itself in layers. It is not until the last act that the true horrors of the Cleek Family are fully articulated to the reader. Capturing and torturing the feral woman is by no means the greatest atrocity performed by Christopher Cleek. By making excuses and ignoring his behavior, the rest have become complicit in his action. The only exceptions may be Cleek’s “youngest” daughter, Darlin’, and even then, it may only be a matter of time.
Jack Ketchum is widely acknowledged to be among the greatest writers in horror literature today. He writes pieces that are grounded in reality. The terror of his works comes from the notion that the acts portrayed can and do happen, even if made fictional and delivered a little heavy handed for the purpose of novelization. Working with Lucky McKee, Ketchum’s immeasurable talent as an author is on display in The Woman. It is a must read for fans of both the Off Season and The Girl Next Door.