Death In Her Hands
Penguin Random House Australia
From author of Eileen and My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a novel of haunting metaphysical suspense.
While on her daily walk with her dog in the nearby woods, our protagonist comes across a note,
handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with stones. Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever
know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.
Shaky even on her best days, she is also alone, and new to this area, having moved here from her
long-time home after the death of her husband, and now deeply alarmed. Her brooding about the
note grows quickly into a full-blown obsession, as she explores multiple theories about who Magda
was and how she met her fate. Her suppositions begin to find echoes in the real world, and the fog of
mystery starts to form into a concrete and menacing shape. But is there either a more innocent
explanation for all this, or a much more sinister one – one that strikes closer to home?
In this triumphant blend of horror, suspense, and pitch-black comedy, we must decide whether the
stories we tell ourselves guide us closer to the truth or keep us further from it.
Praise for Ottessa Moshfegh:
‘Her stories are depraved, profound, and bleakly, wickedly funny. To read her is to be unsettled.’
‘Viciously funny… Moshfegh’s writing is as lethally efficient as a flick-knife.’
‘A writer of rare talent and assurance.’
‘Super abundantly talented…Moshfegh’s sentences are piercing and vixenish …
she is always a deep pleasure to read.’
New York Times
Ottessa Moshfegh is the author of McGlue (2014); Eileen, which was awarded the 2016
PEN/Hemingway Award and shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Homesick for Another World (2017);
and My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018), which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize.
Curious, disturbing and uncomfortable. Perhaps all I can do is share my feelings about this book rather than try to give any sort of cohesive review – as I found this book…strange.
To begin, I really enjoyed the first part of the book – I enjoyed meeting the protagonist Hesta, hearing Hesta’s perspective of her life and what is happening around her in a stream of consciousness style of ramblings. But after while I felt like I could skip whole pages and not miss anything… it is a short read, I did continue on, waiting for the “gothic” tones or comedy to make themselves known. If they were there, I missed them (maybe in those pages I skipped) 😊
I read on, the drama and the tension build as Vesta spiralled between revealing moments of clarity as she reflected on her marriage and life, to ever increasing moments of paranoia. I finished the book.
The ending was unsettling ( no spoilers here) but a strange thing occurred to me as I sat an contemplated what this book meant and how I would attempt to review it (badly), this really was a pretty powerful reflection of life; on expectations of living a good life and what compromises that means, on sanity/insanity, on aging and loneliness, regrets, anger and of the slow decent into paranoia and or dementia.
So… it was powerful, made me feel uncomfortable and did make me think. Did I enjoy reading this? First instinct is to answer no, but upon deeper reflection, perhaps I enjoyed a little of it, its is obvious this author can write well but it did lose my attention part way through; I rarely flick through or by pass entire pages… but in this novel I did. Would I recommend this read…probably not in these times of pandemic where something lighter is more palatable. But if you are looking for a challenge, for depth, for deep, meaningful conversations with the author, perhaps you could give this book a try.
There are those books, aren’t there, that leave a deep impression, even if you can’t say you enjoyed the book in the usual sense. I know what you mean about that, Carol. And it sounds as though this book did have a lot of layers, and gave you a lot to think about, and that can be valuable.
Enjoyed your honest thoughts and self reflection on this one Carol. I haven’t read it so can’t comment on my reaction to the book, but I enjoyed your review all the same.
Thanks so much Tracey – this certainly was a difficult one to review.