Video Book Review: The Chrysalis by Brendan Deneen

The Chrysalis can be read as an allegory on the horrors of having to fit in with society’s expectations.

Jenny and Tom are a hard-partying but broke married couple. He has arms filled with tattoos and a man bun. After his bartending shift, they often drink and party through the rest of the night. It’s not a conventional life, but it’s one they enjoy. They’ve found their routine in it.

And then everything changes very quickly. The rent skyrockets on their tiny apartment. Jenny loses her job. Biggest of all, Jenny gets pregnant. They hadn’t really thought about kids before, but welcome the idea and realize they must quickly change everything. Not only for the baby, but also to avoid becoming homeless.

Tom takes the corporate job he had always said he would never do and the couple finds a big, affordable rambler of a house in New Jersey. Early on, Tom finds a baby-sized chrysalis in their basement, touches it out of curiosity, and succumbs to a euphoric and addictive high.

As Jenny settles into domestic life, Tom becomes more and more addicted to touching the chrysalis. Almost to the point that he undergoes a Smeagol + Gollum-like transition. As he approaches the chrysalis, I can almost hear him hissing, “Myyyyy preeeeecioussssss.”

Is it the chrysalis that makes him monstrous? Is it this forced entry into conventional, domestic life? When he loses the man bun and puts on a tie, it’s almost like Tom’s lost himself.

Of course the supernatural element s proven to override all rational thought in this book, but it’s still interesting to wonder if it’s able to take a stronger hold because Tom’s stripped so much enjoyment out of his life, that this may be all that’s left.

I find it interesting that we focus so heavily on Tom’s metamorphosis when Jenny is undergoing the same changes. And has a person growing inside of her at the same time. And dealing with an increasingly volatile spouse. But sure, let’s focus on Tom’s hardships.

I really enjoyed The Chrysalis. Whether you call it horror or science fiction, it’s an awfully good book.


The Chrysalis
Brendan Deneen
Published September 2018
Tor Books

Watch this book review of The Chrysalis and other book-related stuff on my Read Remark booktube channel.

Music credit: YouTube