Playing House Might Just Be Deadly
By K.L. Romo
What if your newly wed perfect husband becomes someone you don’t recognize when he visits his childhood home? And what if he chooses his father instead of you? In her 12th novel, BEWARE THE WOMAN, bestselling author Megan Abbott plunges readers into the maelstrom of complicated family dynamics and the need to trust the one you married.
Jacy and Jed are an idyllic newly married couple, with a baby on the way. When they decide to visit Jed’s father, Dr. Ash, at the family home in the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Jacy can’t wait to meet the man who Jed never talks about. But as they get closer, Jacy notices Jed has become pensive and anxious, and she doesn’t know why.
When they arrive, Dr. Ash is doting and gracious. Jacy just doesn’t understand why Jed is so agitated, and, as the days pass, it gets worse. It’s clear his career as an artist—he creates and restores neon signs—disappoints his father, but why is Jed so concerned? He’s a grown man, after all.
Soon, her husband reverts to his childhood self, wanting to please his father at all costs. When Jacy has a health scare, Dr. Ash insists she remain in his home to ensure the health of the baby. But the longer she stays, the more she understands that she and the baby are not Jed’s first concern.
It was just announced that Chernin Entertainment (Hidden Figures and Ford vs. Ferrari) has bought film rights.
Here, Abbott chats with The Big Thrill about the complicated relationships between grown children and their parents, the push and pull of marriage, and her obsession with Polaroid cameras.
What was the catalyst for the story in BEWARE THE WOMAN?
A line came to me—“We all marry strangers.” Ultimately, that line became something my protagonist Jacy’s mother says to her in the book. I kept thinking about what it means, how even in the happiest or most content marriages, there’s always a moment when you uncover something about your spouse you never guessed or imagined. And that feeling—that kind of creeping paranoia—drove the book.
Will you discuss the sometimes precarious relationship between a parent and a grown child versus the relationship between husband and wife?
I thought about this so much. Both Jacy and her husband Jed are only children, raised by single parents of the same sex. That can be the greatest gift—all that parental attention, the closeness. But it can also overpower, an enmeshment that can be stifling or worse. And marriage can feel like a threat to that bond.
In reading BEWARE THE WOMAN, part of the horror for me was considering, “What if my husband put me second?” Why does the persistent desire to please a parent sometimes overshadow the marital bond, and what damage does it cause?
Boy, great question. I guess the hard part is that it’s seldom conscious. We don’t know we’re doing it, but it just happens. And, for many of us, we have a loyalty to our parents that is so deep and complicated. The notion that parents are forever, but a marriage might end—some parents (those overly invested in their children) can manipulate that without even knowing it. They can tug at our guilt, play on it. It’s all so fraught.
How has your work evolved from hard-boiled crime noir to psychological suspense?
I must confess: I never think of it as an evolution, or a genre shift, or anything like that, though I can see why it might appear that way. For me, they all reflect my sensibility, my obsessions. They’re all interior stories revolving around a crime and around very primal urges: greed, desire, anger, loss, hunger. And I’m always trying to forge a connection to the reader, to bring the reader along with me on this journey so, stylistically, they’re all very intimate, specific, personal.
What advice can you give other writers?
Read constantly and widely. And every day give yourself permission to write badly. Our self-judgment can paralyze us, and it’s important to remember everything starts out rough and unwieldy. But it’s pages, and you’ll make it better later. Just keep going.
Can you share a teaser about your next novel?
It’s early days, but I think this next one will be my first novel set in my hometown (Grosse Pointe, MI). It’s about a group of women of a certain age (empty nesters), getting into big trouble.
Tell us something about yourself your fans might not already know.
I’m obsessed with taking Polaroid pictures. I have a vintage Polaroid 600, and nothing makes me happier than wandering around Queens, NY taking pictures. There’s something about the permanence of the film that makes me pause longer, look harder. See differently.