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The Woman by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee

The Woman by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee
The Woman by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee

Remember the fine young cannibals? Not the band that sang, “She Drives Me Crazy” and “Good Thing.” The band of cannibals that ate tourists along the coast of Maine in Jack Ketchum‘s classic novels, Off Season and Offspring. (Know by fans as Ketchum’s Dead River Series.)

The Woman is back in all her feral glory, and authors Ketchum and Lucky McKee put her through the paces in The Woman. The last surviving member of her cave-dwelling, people-eating clan, the Woman is captured by a country lawyer / mad man who locks her up in his basement. Creepy Christopher Cleek, Esq. kicks it up a notch by getting his wife and kids involved in the fiendish torture, which gives The Woman some of the same sadistic feel that permeated Ketchum’s landmark novel, The Girl Next Door.

Cannibal girl isn’t the only one suffering at hands of Cleek (and his growing-up-creepy son, Brian). Father and son feed a corpse to a pack of wild dogs (and another, far more disturbing animal that shares the pen), and then sit back to soak in the soothing truth of extreme violence.
There are bits of her scattered everywhere.
“Doesn’t even look real anymore,” Brian says, “does it, dad.”
He’s every bit as engaged as Cleek is.
“Does to me,” he says. He doesn’t know particularly what he means by that but it has the ring of truth so he says it again. “Does to me.”
Cleek’s wife, daughters, and secretary are all victims of his manipulation. His teenage daughter wonders if the cycle of abuse can ever be broken.
Would she inherit this?  And gradually melt into the ghost of some unknown man’s desires?
And later she considers the deepest scars of all.
When you’re young pain can take a long time to go away.  And leave its residue forever.”
But the women in The Woman are all fighters and survivors, with the Woman representing raw feminine power at its most primal. Even as the Woman is brutalized, Ketchum and McKee celebrate her power, survival skills, and cunning. She is the true hero here and it’s a blast when she finally breaks free and kicks ass. Ketchum and McKee know revenge is a dish best served cold … and bloody. The Woman leaves readers wickedly satisfied.
Besides, there are worse things than being a cannibal cavegirl. At least The Woman has a moral compass and a sense of family. Peel back the onionskin veneer of small-town lawyer Christopher Cleek and you’ll find the true heart of darkness.

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