She hears her own thick voice deep inside her ears when she says, ‘I need to know where I am.’ The man stands there, tall and narrow, hand still on the doorknob, surprised. He says, almost in sympathy, ‘Oh, sweetie. You need to know what you are.’
Verla and Yolanda are among ten young women who wake up from a drugged sleep not knowing where they are or why they are there. But as the day unfolds, so too does their terrible situation become clearer. They are in a prison unlike no other: in abandoned buildings on an unknown remote piece of land, surrounded by electrified fences. There is no escape, and their jailers are two men with no compassion and not much idea what they are doing. Their heads shaved, their clothes taken away and replaced with ugly, itchy uniforms, the women are to perform hard labour in a regime which is supposedly intended to reform them. Their crime? Each woman has been part of a sexual scandal with a powerful man – though these relationships were, for the most, not consensual.
The Natural Way of Things is an uncomfortable book, dealing with often shocking events playing out as part of a terrible, unfathomable injustice. But it is this discomfort which makes the book so brilliant. The readers is taken on an emotional journey through a raft of emotions including despair, denial, anger, hope and more. The characters, particularly Verla and Yolanda, are intriguing, and their developing relationships fascinating.
Exploring misogyny, corporate control, this dystopian novel is a must read for women and for men.
The Natural Way of Things
Allen & Unwin, 2015