Book Review – The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

Let’s talk about prickly women. 

We find one such woman in the book The Cactus by Sarah Haywood. Our main character, Susan, is, well, a prickly woman. 

The Cactus Rundown

Susan is like a cactus. She’s standoffish, logical, by the book, and a generally uninviting person. Of course, we know from the outset that there are going to be things that disrupt this cactushood of hers. 

She finds out early in the book that she is pregnant. Subsequently, she loses her mom and has an ensuing legal battle with her brother over the will. 

Things start to erode at her prickliness. Susan meets a guy (yes, of course it’s a guy!) who for some reason takes a shine to her. 

It certainly doesn’t hurt that she’s beautiful. The author describes her as looking like pop goddess Kylie Minogue. Beauty is a convenient tool to wash away evils, at times.


A couple of things about The Cactus didn’t quite sit right. One: Rob’s attraction to Susan. What did he see in her, other than her beauty? Though we saw glimpses of her humanity throughout the book, we also saw a lot of her vile attitude. 

Also icky: the protracted legal battle with her brother over the mom’s will. It’s tiresome. Every time it cut to one of those scenes, I rushed through it so I could get back to the story. 


Despite the shortcomings, The Cactus is a charming book! 

Granted, it’s not the most original story of all time. It’s a story as old as the Taming of the Shrew: prickly woman gets softened by life and a man. 

But that’s okay! It doesn’t have to move literary mountains to be worth my time. And this book was a lovely one to spend some time with. 

Additional Complicated Women

If you’re in the market for fiction about prickly and complicated women, here are a couple of recommendations: 

Book: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, written by Gail Honeyman

Oh, how I love weird Eleanor! 

Her trouble communicating with people comes from deep-seated trauma. The book is set to become a movie soon, and I hope that they do her justice. 

My favorite scene in the book: she’s going to a dinner party and doesn’t know what to bring. Eleanor’s solution is to grab half a pack of American cheese slices from her fridge, take it to the party, and present it as the hostess gift. 

Check out my full review of Eleanor Oliphant here.

Movie: Young Adult, written by Diablo Cody

This one’s not a book at all. It’s a movie called Young Adult, starring Charlize Theron and directed by Jason Reitman. 

Diablo Cody writes the screenplay, but I think of Diablo Cody as a writer first and a screenwriter second. Her stories and characters’ complexities go way beyond the two hours we spend with them in the movie. She tells stories that dig deep into parts of humanity that people don’t always talk about.

In Young Adult, we get to know (and loathe) a woman primed to redeem herself. But she doesn’t. It’s such an interesting character. Her maturity froze back in high school, and she’s still living in her glory days of being pretty and popular and dating the cutest boy in school. Her emotions don’t seem to go past the surface.

She takes calculated steps, almost as if she’s a character in a book. It’s a highly underrated movie.

So let’s hear it for prickly women! Boy, do they make literature interesting.


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