forthcoming July 9, 2019



The Need is an existential thriller about Molly, a scientist and mother of two young children. When a masked intruder appears in her home and demonstrates an eerie familiarity with the inner workings of her life, Molly falls down a mind-bending rabbit hole. The evolving tension of the threat from the intruder is matched by mounting drama at Molly’s workplace. She is a paleobotanist who has recently uncovered an array of peculiar artifacts at her fossil quarry. When Molly learns the true identity of the intruder, her personal and professional crises collide, forcing her to confront an almost impossible moral decision with far-reaching repercussions for her children. This work of speculative fiction explores maternal love, loss, and what one human can be asked to do for another.

praise for “The beautiful bureaucrat”

"A tightrope walk over the abyss, where the stakes are total, and the prose is exuberant and taut, dire and playful."
Karen Russell

“Are we pawns in the thrall of bureaucratic (Kafka) or totalitarian (Orwell) systems? Or are we, in fact, the ones with ultimate power; the arbiters — even unknowingly — of life and death? Helen Phillips deftly interrogates this existential divide in her riveting, drolly surreal debut novel, The Beautiful Bureaucrat.
The New York Times Book Review

"Told with the light touch of a Calvino and the warm heart of a Saramago,  this  brief fable-novel is funny, sad, scary, and beautiful. I love it."
Ursula K. Le Guin

"Helen Phillips’ The Beautiful Bureaucrat has the compulsive quality of a mystery and the furious urgency of a fever dream. I picked it up and read it everywhere: on the subway, over breakfast, in bed when I should have been sleeping, at work when I should have been working. It will coax you into its world with the crystalline precision of its prose, so full of heart and strangeness it might even crawl into your own dreams and find you there."
Leslie Jamison

"The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a thrillingly original debut, formally inventive and emotionally complex. Helen Phillips is one of the most exciting young writers working today, and I envy those who get to discover her work here for the first time."
Jenny Offill

"Equal parts mystery, thriller, and existential inquiry, Phillips’s book evokes the menace of the mundane”.  
The New Republic

"The Beautiful Bureaucrat reads like Borges in Brooklyn, with its cerebral pleasures buttressed by Helen Phillips’ precise, resonant depictions of love, marriage, sex, and terrible apartments. It bends from uncanny to unsettling and ends at very deeply satisfying."
Robin Sloan

"A satisfying parable of love and life, death and birth, and the travails of transposed numbers. The Beautiful Bureaucrat reads like a thriller."
Joshua Ferris

"Helen Phillips is a funny, subversive, enigmatic, melancholy wonder. With And Yet They Were Happy she produced one of my favorite recent story collections and now, with The Beautiful Bureaucrat, she has written one of my favorite recent novels, equal parts Franz Kafka and Lydia Davis, a narrative in which the perplexities of work and marriage gradually change their colors to display the perplexities of birth and death. When these pages reached my hands, my first thought was this: Helen Phillips is publishing another book, which means that I can, briefly, revel in it until I start looking for her next."
Kevin Brockmeier

"In the bleak hallways of bureaucracy, Helen Phillips explores what it means to make a life one’s own. The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a page-turning mystery, a love story and a revelation."
Ramona Ausubel



now available for pre-order