The Natural Way of Things…
Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage – a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.
Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue – but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.
While by no means could this ever be classed as a ‘nice’ book, The Natural Way of Things is most certainly a good book. A very good book. It examines the reduction and debasement that can occur when we, as humans, are taken out of our normal environment and placed into another, more sink or swim, type of a situation.
Who do we become, when there is nothing left for us to do other than survive? Do we isolate ourselves or band together? And what happens when you change so much you can no longer remember who you ever were? For me, these were the core themes of this book, and Charlotte Wood handled them with finesse.
This is a gritty, gripping, frightening novel, and I could not put it down. Not for the happy endings type of reader, but if you like your fiction with a sharp, no holds barred edge of reality, then this is a book you may be glad you picked up.
Winner of the 2016 Stella Prize.
The Natural Way of Things is book 27 of my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.