A Canadian grad student, newly pregnant with her married professor’s baby, must navigate a world altered by a pandemic in which blonde women attack the people around them in this smart new literary thriller from Schultz (Heaven Is Small, 2009, etc.).
On her first day in New York City, Hazel Hayes discovers her unexpected pregnancy, dyes her hair orange and sees a businesswoman drag a young girl to her death on the subway tracks. At first, it seems like a random act of violence, but soon, the streets are filled with women and girls acting rabid, killing people and perishing themselves. The only thing connecting the infected? Their (natural, dyed, highlighted) blonde hair. Hazel is recounting these events—and her herculean struggle to get home to Toronto as the disease tears across the world—months later to her unborn child while holed up in a cabin with her professor’s wife. The premise seems ludicrous—almost as if it's not meant to be taken very seriously—but that's intentional, and Schultz plays with this expectation. Before a violent attack at JFK, Hazel witnesses a group of flight attendants preparing to strike. She attempts to describe the scene and then stops. “You see, I’m not telling this right,” she says. “It sounds comical, even to me. Part of the difficulty has to do with the fact that they were very beautiful women.” This is the best kind of satire: The disease doesn’t stand in cleanly for any single idea but rather an amalgamation of double standards, dismissals, expectations, abuses, and injustices large and small that any woman will recognize. What could be sexist clichés—the student/professor affair, the mistress and wife at each other’s throats—are utterly recast, and nestled in the wry political commentary are moments of pure horror.
A nail-biter that is equal parts suspense, science fiction, and a funny, dark sendup of the stranglehold of gender.