NOT YOUR AVERAGE CABIN IN THE WOODS: A REVIEW OF MEGAN ABBOTT'S BEWARE THE WOMAN
Megan Abbott often subverts noir and thriller fiction, placing it in unlikely places like a ballet studio or cheerleading squad, In Beware The Woman she takes what initially appears to be a more traditional route. However Abbott once again proves that appearances are deceiving,
She begins with a setting familiar to readers f the genre- a cabin in the woods. Jacy Ash, in the middle of her pregnancy, vacations with her husband Jed at his father's place in upstate Michigan, staying in the guest home. Dr. Ash dotes on his daughter in law in a way she finds charming, but most readers of the genre will take a creepy. We also get a devoted caretaker with shades of Rebecca's Mrs. Danvers.
It starts to get peculiar for Jacy when she has what she believes to be a mild pregnancy scare. Jed and his father take it much more seriously and insist they extend their stay. While she understands the concern, she begins to question their motives as the days drag on with her becoming more closed off from the world. Her search for answers lead her to Jed's relationship with his father connected to family secrets that could lead to her jeopardy.
Abbott uses the reader's knowledge of the thriller and its tropes as an element of the story. By establishing the story with the familiar and stripping it down to it's basest elements, she then rebuilds it and uses those tropes and our knowledge of them. We are initially ahead of Jacy, knowing the kind of story she is in, understanding she is in danger but not knowing why or how. Abbott also tosses out a few cards from the pregnancy paranoia subgenre to keep us on our feet.
Beware The Woman presents us with a traditional summer thriller, then builds it. Through mood and her rich characterization, Abbott is able to use the template to explore gender politics in marriage and family. Like Coltrane playing "My Favorite Things", she takes a standard then examines it from every angle to create something personal and exhilarating.