If The Last Werewolf was a novel about love as antidote to ennui, than Talulla Rising is a novel about motherhood as antidote to feminism. I’m not trying to suggest feminism is bad or wrong. Rather, I’m suggesting that the contexts which require a feminist approach can be mitigated by motherhood. In an ideal world, would there be feminism? Would people be, perforce, defined by gender at all? That’s not an easy question to answer. However, biology requires a difference between the sexes, and so, if that division results in inequality, feminism is an attempt to reassert equality. Motherhood, too, asserts the necessity of sexual difference.
Which is not to say a woman is not useful unless she gives birth. Rather, a person need not be defined by genitals until reproduction is at stake. The female werewolves—and vampires—in Duncan’s two werewolf novels are in no way the weaker sex. Their desires and capabilities are no different from men’s. Until, that is, motherhood is their main identity. This makes them vulnerable—but it also gives them the strength and perseverance to overcome any will that would otherwise thwart their desires.
The question that Duncan raises: is the motherhood desire innate, or is it also a matter of will? Talulla’s lacuna would seem to free her from the obligations of motherhood. But she chooses to overcome them, chooses motherhood. The kidnappers of Lorcan use her motherhood against her, and she chooses to use her motherhood to recover her son. And in the process, she defeats the forces that would dismantle her. Talulla uses reproduction as a weapon.
This is how Duncan is able to write a thriller, filled with sex and gore, philosophical musings, and witheringly self-indulgent self-awareness, without coming across as trite or hackneyed. Talulla Rising is a hell of a ride, but also a deep meditation on how feminism and motherhood are necessary in a world that would use a woman’s sex as a means by which to take away her free will. At its core, Talulla is a tender, uncompromising, inspiring.