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Death in Her Hands Oy veyI read Eileen years ago and didn t like it, but then I picked up My Year of Rest and Relaxation last year and LOVED it So, I was wary but excited to receive Death in Her Hands as an ARC.I didn t enjoy it, at all It was one long stream of consciousness of an old and lonely lady making up stories and scenarios in her head The premise of the book was great, but it just didn t deliver That ending was the final nail in the coffin for a 1 star review. Oh, the terrible wonders of the mind Death in Her Hands is a dark that she can survive in At length, she reflects on a life of unfulfil Oh, the terrible wonders of the mind Death in Her Hands is a dark layered novel that lulls the reader into the crumbling psyche of an incredibly lonely depressed protagonist, desperately trying to free her mind expunge the painful memories that she tries to bury within a labyrinth of half truths alternate history She is a woman powerless over her mind yet dependent on it to conjure a reality she can believe in that she can survive in At length, she reflects on a life of unfulfilled desire mourning her unrealized dreams, her unsatisfied yearnings, her squandered passion Recently widowed, she begins to register the hatred she felt for the deleterious, pompous academic she married, her dissatisfaction with the decades long monotony of life as a housewife may have caused her mind to deteriorate in deeper ways than she realizes For years she had been constructing alternate realities counterlives to combat the constant interia boredom she felt, now, in her old age, her mind is uncontrolled deranged,dangerous deceptive than she knows, being without the mental fortitude to comprehend her own deficiences In this novel, Ottessa Moshfegh returns to the dark, death reek of McGlue, crafting a meta murder mystery cum domestic drama, suffused with slowly built tension, dread fear It is all interiority murk, a story of imagination loosed, delusions, how ideas germinate, sprout become palpable, living things The author explores the imaginative s of senility, of an unwinding mind quite unsurprising if you ve followed her career to this point While this novel wasn t as transcendent a reading experience as the brilliant and perfect My Year of Rest and Relaxation, it is, nonetheless, a highly entertaining complex fifth offering from a writer I will stan forever Ottessa Moshfegh has written a twisted, genre bending detective story Her protagonist Vesta Gul is a 72 year old widow who lives in a remote former girl scout camp with her dog Charlie But mind you, Vesta is no Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher rather, it becomes very clear early on that there is something psychologically wrong with this lonely female narrator who tells us that she found a mysterious slip of paper in the woods with the words scribbled on itHere name was Magda Nobody will ev Ottessa Moshfegh has written a twisted, genre bending detective story Her protagonist Vesta Gul is a 72 year old widow who lives in a remote former girl scout camp with her dog Charlie But mind you, Vesta is no Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher rather, it becomes very clear early on that there is something psychologically wrong with this lonely female narrator who tells us that she found a mysterious slip of paper in the woods with the words scribbled on itHere name was Magda Nobody will ever know who killed her It wasn t me Here is her dead bodyThere is no dead body though, and the suspense of the whole novel relies on the question what really happened, in how far Vesta is delusional, what her delusions point at, and whether Moshfegh has broken the main rule of the murder mystery The detective and the murderer can t be the same person Vesta sets out to investigate what happened to Magda, but her conclusions mainly rely on projection her rambling thoughts, her restless mind and her obsession with the note seem to be driven by her lack of occupation and social contacts She constructs her own suspects and their backstories, gives them names, feels like she recognizes them in people she meets by accident, and we follow her further and further down the rabbit hole As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Vesta s deceased husband of almost four decades, Walter Gul, a German epistemologist with Turkish roots, did not treat her particularly well, and Vesta, who has Croatian roots, still hears his voice telling her what to think and do Now two fun facts 1 Vesta is the name of the Roman goddess of home, hearth, and family, 2 Moshfegh herself is half Croatian Throughout the text, we are trapped inside Vesta s mind, which leads to feelings of claustrophobia although the topic is completely different, the whole narrative experience is not unlike Milkman What fuels the story is Moshfegh s typical disregard for narrative conventions and her playfulnessMystery was an artless gernre, that much was obviousMany of Vesta s thoughts are darkly comic, and her ideas frequently point to wider concepts We have a potential victim called Magda Mary Magdalene and a potential perpetratator called Ghod which might be a reference to, of course, God, or mock deities, or authorities in general, or to Walter or just check out Urban Dictionary then there are two poems in there, one Vesta cannot identify it s W.B Yeats The Second Coming , the famous line Moshfegh does not quote but that applies here beingThings fall apart the center cannot hold, and the other William Blake s The Voice of the Ancient Bard plus lots of other puzzling stuff like childless Vesta s unsettling fixation on questions of abortion So all in all, Death in Her Hands has all the classic ingredients of Moshfegh s fiction, mainly the potential to disturb and challenge readers, and I love her daring, fearless, unusual writing This effort might prove to be quite divisive because the author refuses to leave the self imposed restrictions of her narrative voice, but I think that s also the special appeal of the story There is no outside of Magda, she lives entirely within her misaligned perceptions, and while immersed in this story, so do we, the readers Death in Her Handsbegins intriguingly, when a woman finds a note in the woods Her name was Magda Nobody will ever know who killed her It wasn t me Here is her dead body.But there s no body, just the note, weighted down with little rocks Vesta the 72 year old widow who discovered it fancies herself a sleuth and becomes obsessed with Magda but her investigation resembles a creative writing exercise she simply invents the suspects and circumstances leading to Magda s death Vesta admitDeath in Her Handsbegins intriguingly, when a woman finds a note in the woods Her name was Magda Nobody will ever know who killed her It wasn t me Here is her dead body.But there s no body, just the note, weighted down with little rocks Vesta the 72 year old widow who discovered it fancies herself a sleuth and becomes obsessed with Magda but her investigation resembles a creative writing exercise she simply invents the suspects and circumstances leading to Magda s death Vesta admits that the note is the closest thing to a social call she s had in a long time her s is a solitary life.So the reader begins to wonder, what s up with Vesta Is she unraveling Maybe she wrote the note herself What exactly is going on But this is no mere unreliable narrator trope, and as the novel progresses it becomesandslippery Vesta revealsabout her ambivalent feelings towards her late husband, and his controlling and cruel nature And it becomes clear that this is not a whodunit, but a psychological study of grief, regret and facing one s own mortality.Slow moving, atmospheric, with a strong, distinctive voice in the eccentric Vesta, Death in Her Hands is a head scratcher, in a good way 4 stars While the concept of this story sounded right up my alley, it left much to be desired because the entire novel that I sped through because it is gripping despite its lack of plot is simply Vesta s stream of consciousness as she ponders who Magda was, who killed her, what her past was like, etc From the moment Vesta finds this note, there is no actual progression of the plot from there, onwards There is no real mystery or overlying darkness to this story that is gripping but makes one wonder While the concept of this story sounded right up my alley, it left much to be desired because the entire novel that I sped through because it is gripping despite its lack of plot is simply Vesta s stream of consciousness as she ponders who Magda was, who killed her, what her past was like, etc From the moment Vesta finds this note, there is no actual progression of the plot from there, onwards There is no real mystery or overlying darkness to this story that is gripping but makes one wonder why they wasted their time reading a story that has no actual plot We are simply stuck in Vesta s mind as she loses her grip on reality and she comes to terms with the fact that she has no real company to hold onto and she has lived a safe life full of regrets, but that s it.I wish I could have connected with the story or the protagonist,I wish there was an actual development to the plot after she stumbles upon this note, but instead, we are forced to follow along with Vesta s sporadic internal monologue only to be served a quickly wrapped up ending that made me wonder why I picked this book up in the first place In short, the concept synopsis wasinteresting than the book itself, which let me down, a lot CONTENT WARNING Death of an animal, fatphobiaSEE MORE OF MY REVIEWS AT STORIESFORCOFFEE.COM 3.5 Initially, I thought Ottessa Moshfegh was toning down her usual style with what seems like a deliberately bland narrative voice Vesta is a widow in her seventies who s recently moved to a lakeside cabin in non specific small town America One morning, while taking her beloved dog Charlie for a walk, she finds a strange note on the ground It reads Her name was Magda Nobody will ever know who killed her It wasn t me Here is her dead body But there is no body While Vesta is instantl 3.5 Initially, I thought Ottessa Moshfegh was toning down her usual style with what seems like a deliberately bland narrative voice Vesta is a widow in her seventies who s recently moved to a lakeside cabin in non specific small town America One morning, while taking her beloved dog Charlie for a walk, she finds a strange note on the ground It reads Her name was Magda Nobody will ever know who killed her It wasn t me Here is her dead body But there is no body While Vesta is instantly obsessed with the mystery , she makes no attempt to find out whether anyone named Magda has been reported missing in the local area Instead, she finds a character profile questionnaire on a webpage titled Top Tips for Mystery Writers , and bases her investigation on that.Vesta s narrative is an infinite scroll feed of her fantasies and imaginings She constructs a whole world around her make believe Magda, including several lovers Most of her interactions with people are imagined, too the voice of her late husband Walter often intrudes on her thoughts Anyone who read My Year of Rest and Relaxation will be unsurprised to meet another character who regards most everyone she encounters with contempt judging their looks, making assumptions about their lives, thinking about how poised and beautiful she is in comparison A Moshfegh protagonist who hates fat people Groundbreaking Only her fictional Magda, whom she sometimes imagines as a daughter, escapes this judgement I deliberately read this directly after Olga Tokarczuk s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead several early reviews have noted the resemblance between the two novels Both have an elderly female protagonist, a dog lover, who lives alone, likes to wander through the woods, and invents nicknames for the people she encounters There are characters of Eastern European origin and even references to the poetry of William Blake I can t say I know what to make of these similarities they seem prominent enough to be intentional, but to what end Perhaps it s just part of Moshfegh s literary trickery, a deliberate attempt to invoke the spectre of plagiarism unoriginality within a novel that is, after all, a closed, self referential loop.There s a reference to The Yellow Wall Paper in here, too, and probably others I missed Vesta made me think about other novels with female protagonists whose imaginations wildly outstrip reality Katie Kitamura s A Separation, Anita Brookner s Undue Influence, Sara Gran s Come Closer Towards the end, the sense of escalating dread and loss of control reminded me strongly of I m Thinking of Ending Things.The blurb calls Death in Her Hands a novel of haunting metaphysical suspense the key word in that sentence is metaphysical This story is not what it seems It s not going where you think it s going What Moshfegh is doing here is very clever The title, for example, is genius it s an inspired choice to lift this particular phrase from the book I d never have guessed what it was actually describing but it s also a clue, a key, and an injoke for the enjoyment of those who have unlocked it The problem is that it takes so long to reach the point where things like this are clear For so much of the book, I was just bored and annoyed by Vesta, wanting to get at the meat of the plot instead of reading page after page of a small minded character s weird fantasies Eventually, I understood that this is exactly the point, which, again, is clever, but not necessarily very pleasurable Making Vesta s account so determinedly dull also blunts its quotability, something I ve always thought of as one of the author s main strengths.But I get the impression that this putting a neat narrative trick above the reader s enjoyment of the story is typically Moshfeghian The joke s on me, I suppose, for taking Vesta s murder mystery at face value It s just hard to love a book when it feels like the whole thing amounts to the author having a laugh at your expense.I think I m destined to come away from Ottessa Moshfegh s books thinking that was really interesting, but I didn t particularly like it As with My Year of Rest and Relaxation, I appreciated it a lotonce I had finished it, stepped back, and fully understood what it was aiming for I can see now that all the signs were there from the start, and I can see how rereading it might be a satisfying experience Yet I would never want to reread it Death in Her Hands works as a concept it is frustrating as a novel.I received an advance review copy of Death in Her Hands from the publisher through NetGalley.TinyLetter Audiobook.read by Ann Marie LeeI like Ottessa Moshfegh.born the same year 1981 as my older daughter The first book I read rather listened to , was Eileen shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize I couldn t pull away I thought I had never read anythinggut wrenching grim.but damn, if it wasn t fascinating in my entire life I became an instant fan..Given how successful listening to the audiobook of Eileen.I chose the audiobook again with My Year of Rest Audiobook.read by Ann Marie LeeI like Ottessa Moshfegh.born the same year 1981 as my older daughter The first book I read rather listened to , was Eileen shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize I couldn t pull away I thought I had never read anythinggut wrenching grim.but damn, if it wasn t fascinating in my entire life I became an instant fan..Given how successful listening to the audiobook of Eileen.I chose the audiobook again with My Year of Rest and Relaxation GREAT different than Eileen , great..but equally thrilled with the book and my chosen Audiobook Format..Sooooo having had great luck with Ottessa s audiobooks in the past I pre ordered the audiobook Death In Her Hands..Only this time.I kept wondering if I made a mistake Should I have read this one rather than listen to it Immediately, I had a judgement with the narrators voice when listening to the famous words they are included in the blurb summary and a dozen other places Her name was Magda Nobody will ever know who killed her It wasn t me Here is her dead body But there is no dead body..Ok.got the picture Those words They are definitely eye ear gripping, for sure Who wouldn t be shaken what the hell was Magda to make of the note It was CREEPY..also frightening BUT..with Ann Marie Lee s voice I was fighting with my desire to know where the story would go with the way she sounded.I eventually got use to her voice but noting her voice wasn t thrilling me in the way the last two Ottessa books did I don t mind slow.but my godthe unraveling was REALLY SLOW..sooooo little was happening for the longgggggest time Ottessa Moshfegh I LOVE THIS AUTHOR.and will read her again I m okay with, weird, eerie satire, haunting suspense, loneliness, delusional thinking, self deprivation, obsession, narcissism.I expect these things from Ottessa.but this wasn t her best book not for me Sluggish plotA very lonely bitter unreliable 72 year old womanA deceased husbandA horrific scene with a dogLots of ramblings.A very un fun dark comic crime thriller.that this time around , I didn t jive with the humor 2 stars I personally don t recommend this book..but I do the first two books I mentioned but even those Ottessa Moshfegh is not for everyone It s a rather dark, damning way to begin a story the pronouncement of a mystery whose investigation is futile Nobody will ever know who killed her The story is over just as it s begun The note certainly didn t promise any happy ending So, what s with the synchronicities between this and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead Both feature a reclusive old woman living in the woods give prime significance to a dog riff on the murder mystery genre use Blake albeit in different waysIt s a rather dark, damning way to begin a story the pronouncement of a mystery whose investigation is futile Nobody will ever know who killed her The story is over just as it s begun The note certainly didn t promise any happy ending So, what s with the synchronicities between this and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead Both feature a reclusive old woman living in the woods give prime significance to a dog riff on the murder mystery genre use Blake albeit in different ways and tackle the oppressions of living under a patriarchy Theovert engagement with the Catholic church in Drive manifests as teasing hints in Death Magda, Ghod, Vesta vestments , the town where she lives, Bethsmane, a kind of linguistic mash up of Bethlehem and Gethsemane One big difference, though, is that while I didn t get on at all with Drive Your Plow, I loved this Moshfegh continues to awe with her originality, her cool and controlled writing, her sheer interestingness and if that s not a word, it ought to be Here, she s attentive to reading, having Vesta parse a brief note to infinity and offering up a model of how to read from all angles She also delivers a sly masterclass in how to create characters as we watch Vesta a rich character in her own right create Magda from nothing At the same time, Vesta s own life and personality seep out from behind the smokescreen of plot In another story, Vesta could have been just one of those women who represent a generation who must have been born in the 1950s in Moshfegh s hands, she s also an individual, unique, whose voice may have been muted all her life but who steps alive, now, off the page even as the text itself reminds us that she s a creature of the writer s imagination Did I say this is seductively meta This is less obviously grimy than Eileen, withostensible plot than My Year of Rest and Relaxation There are flashes of Moshfegh s subversive humour on the now empty urn that held her husband s ashes What would I fill it back up with Dirt from the garden Plant a tulip bulb and the sheer intelligence, both literary and emotional, shines through Marvellous, undoubtedly set to be one of my reads of the year and my book crush on Moshfegh continues Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC via NetGalley Is there nothing this woman can t do Death in Her Hands, Ottessa Moshfegh s newest novel, takes the cozy mystery genre and stands it on its head Takes what Agatha Christie and her lot do so well, and goes six feet under that Deeply examining life, death, grief Regrets, resentment, anger All that uncomfortable stuff.The book opens with a cryptic note found in the woods by a 72 year old woman, Vesta, walking her dog Her name was Magda No one will ever know who killed her It wasn t me HereIs there nothing this woman can t do Death in Her Hands, Ottessa Moshfegh s newest novel, takes the cozy mystery genre and stands it on its head Takes what Agatha Christie and her lot do so well, and goes six feet under that Deeply examining life, death, grief Regrets, resentment, anger All that uncomfortable stuff.The book opens with a cryptic note found in the woods by a 72 year old woman, Vesta, walking her dog Her name was Magda No one will ever know who killed her It wasn t me Here is her dead body Vesta, a widow who is living in a cabin in a very secluded area, becomes obsessed Who is this Magda Where is she How did she die Her imagination runs amok.We readers wonder about Magda, too We do But the real mystery of this book is whether our narrator is losing her mind She seems unstable from the first, so the question isn t is this narrator unreliable It slike will this narrator turn out to be reliable after all We desperately hope so.Fans of Moshfegh who have already read Booker nominated Eileen will find this narrator somewhat familiar Both stories are told from the point of view of an older woman looking back at her younger, tougher days Both women have gained perspective and a certain wisdom about life Another comparison can be made Poetry by William Blake and a rural setting in which an older, single, animal loving woman is fighting the patriarchy will bring to mind Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead.The writing is gorgeously muscular, experienced Completely character driven, relentlessly interior, fascinating and clever, Moshfegh compels you through this quasi mystery by injecting tension and her trademark bleakness This novel captures the insanity of loneliness in a murky, brilliant snarl I should mention, if you re waiting for someone to shit in the middle of the room or keep a dead rodent in the glovebox of their car, you might be disappointed It s the least controversial of her books thus far, which could be a letdown for those craving that kick in the crotch we ve come to expect from dear Ms Moshfegh And then, after you think about Vesta, and the mystery, and her grief there lurks a deeper meta layer While pondering the circumstances of Magda s death, Vesta behaves much like a writer, coming up with a list of suspects, character traits, motives, background, setting She stays up late writing in notebooks How terribly lonely that whole process is Writing The creating of world and story, populating a once empty reality, venturing into a weird, untraversed headspace It s solitary It s crazy making It s self defeating It nearly kills you But if you re good, you ll find the jugular, that sticky, bloody life source.Was there any doubt She s so good She found it again A novel of haunting metaphysical suspense about an elderly widow whose life is upturned when she finds a cryptic note on a walk in the woods that ultimately makes her question everything about her new home While on her normal daily walk with her dog in the forest woods, our protagonist comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with a frame of stones Her name was Magda Nobody will ever know who killed her It wasn t me Here is her dead body Our narrator is deeply shaken she has no idea what to make of this She is new to area, having moved her from her longtime home after the death of her husband, and she knows very few people And she s a little shaky even on best days Her brooding about this note quickly grows into a full blown obsession, and she begins to devote herself to exploring the possibilities of her conjectures about who this woman was and how she met her fate Her suppositions begin to find echoes in the real world, and with mounting excitement and dread, the fog of mystery starts to form into a concrete and menacing shape But as we follow her in her investigation, strange dissonances start to accrue, and our faith in her grip on reality weakens, until finally, just as she seems be facing some of the darkness in her own past with her late husband, we are forced to face the prospect that there is either a innocent explanation for all this or a much sinister one one that strikes closer to homeA triumphant blend of horror, suspense, and pitch black comedy, Death in Her Hands asks us to consider how the stories we tell ourselves both guide us closer to the truth and keep us at bay from it Once again, we are in the hands of a narrator whose unreliability is well earned, only this time the stakes have never been higher


About the Author: Ottessa Moshfegh

Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England Her first book, McGlue, a novella, won the Fence Modern Prize in Prose and the Believer Book Award She is also the author of the short story collection Homesick for Another World Her stories have been published in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, and Granta, and have earned her a Pushcart Prize, an O Henry Award, the Plimpton Discovery Prize, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Eileen, her first novel, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN Hemingway Award for debut fiction My Year of Rest and Relaxation, her second novel, was a New York Times bestseller.


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