“A Handmaid’s Tale for the 21st century” (Prism Magazine), Wood’s dystopian tale about a group of young women held prisoner in the Australian desert is a prescient feminist fable for our times. As the Guardian writes, “contemporary feminism may have found its masterpiece of horror.”
Drugged, dressed in old-fashioned rags, and fiending for a cigarette, Yolanda wakes up in a barren room. Verla, a young woman who seems vaguely familiar, sits nearby. Down a hallway echoing loudly with the voices of mysterious men, in a stark compound deep in the Australian outback, other captive women are just coming to. Starved, sedated, the girls can't be sure of anything—except the painful episodes in their pasts that link them.
Drawing strength from the animal instincts they're forced to rely on, the women go from hunted to hunters, along the way becoming unforgettable and boldly original literary heroines that readers will both relate to and root for.
The Natural Way of Things is a lucid and illusory fable and a brilliantly plotted novel of ideas that reminds us of mankind's own vast contradictions—the capacity for savagery, selfishness, resilience, and redemption all contained by a single, vulnerable body.
2016 Stella Prize
2016 Prime Minister’s Literary Award in Fiction
An Australian Indie Best Fiction Book & Overall Book of the Year Winner
2017 International Dublin Literary Award
2016 Voss Literary Prize
2016 Victorian Premier's Award
2016 The Miles Franklin Award
The latest from Australian novelist Wood (Animal People) is allegory at its best, a phantasmagoric portrait of modern culture's sexual politics textured by psychological realism and sparing lyricism. The unsettling opening launches readers into a nightmare. A group of drugged women wake up in a remote, dilapidated compound whose wild grounds are surrounded by an electrified fence. They are sheared and leashed and marched and beaten. "You need to know what you are," one of the guards tells them. As glancing references to their former lives indicate, each of the "bald and frightened girls" was at the center of a public scandal involving powerful men: sports stars, politicians, television hosts, religious leaders. Their horrid, punishing captivity is also marked by an eerie normality. One of their captors checks his online dating profile; another does morning yoga. The women form tenuous bonds over their extended detention, but they have also internalized the culture's sexist attitudes the "dull fear and hatred" of the female body and thus their sisterhood is occasionally riven by suspicion and scorn. Distinguishing themselves from the group are two fierce, introspective protagonists, Yolanda and Verla, who scour the land for game and mushrooms and reject the path of "trailing, limping obedience." Despite its overt message, the novel seldom feels programmatic because of Wood's gorgeous, elliptical style.