By: Ottessa Moshfegh
In this, my 140th book review, there will be no intro that gives a taste of what the book is about. It’s a collection of short stories that even Penguin Books couldn’t explain adequately, so why should I? I’m feeling spiteful.
Ottessa Moshfegh is a recently successful author who was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for her debut novel Eileen but really saw a rise in popularity after she published My Year of Rest and Relaxation. She is known for writing generally unlikeable characters which seems amplified in this collection of short stories. A collection, I might add, that I thought was going to be science fiction based and it turned out to be psychological. The name and the cover are irritatingly deceptive, and, as already mentioned, the book blurb was no help either.
On the back cover, the publishers described the characters in Homesick For Another World as “…unsteady on their feet; they yearn for connection and betterment but are often tripped up by their own baser impulses and existential insecurities.” Which is a pretentious way to explain that all of them are generally terrible people who prioritize their own unorthodox desires at the expense of others.
These are sickening and unsettling tales revolving around lewd themes. With some authors, I read their words and feel terror about the way they see the world and wonder at the kind of people they are. I know she trends towards darker themes in all her works, so I looked up an interview about why she leans that way. She admitted that her tastes make her seem “like a murderer.” And in a way, I understand where she is coming from. Many women have a deep desire to learn about true crime. It’s trendy. It’s everywhere. Podcasts, TV shows, documentaries, and YouTube make it incredibly easy for anyone to learn the gory details about nearly every brutal crime covered by the media. But this collection feels different than an interest in something like that. This collection feels creepy and wrong on a fundamental level and I can honestly say that I’m put off from really wanting to read her other works. I’m not really sure what I would get.
The stories were dirty and upsetting. I felt like a bystander who is complicit in the actions of these characters simply for bearing witness to their lives. Something about her stories felt too real and I think that’s what made them so horrible. There’s nothing supernatural going on. People like these exist in our world, and I hate knowing that. The obsessors, sexual predators, abusers, and manipulators. The people you never hope to meet in broad daylight let alone a dark alley. I really can’t recommend this collection at all, but I will give Moshfegh credit that she has talent as a writer. I think she could put even Stephen King to shame.
Overall rating: 2