DEATH IN HER HANDS is Ottessa Moshfegh’s riff on the classic detective novel. The “detective” is Vesta, a lonely old widow who stumbles upon a note in the woods that alludes to a woman’s murder. The note consumes Vesta’s every thought. Her mind runs wild as she fabricates clues and invents background stories for the victim and suspects, ultimately blurring fact and fiction as she slowly loses her grip on reality. This novel is a deep dive into a troubled woman’s psyche, a character study of a woman who as Moshfegh perfectly puts it “chose to live in isolation to find peace towards the end of her life – and, in the process, encounters her imagination.”
I devoured this book and, I think, it devoured part of me. When I finished, I just sat stunned. What did I just read? What was this book? I went back and reread sections then reread them again. Much like Vesta, I lost myself. This book shocked and confused me; it was unsettling, unnerving, and it made me question what I was reading. Was it good? I think so. But more importantly, it made me feel something in a way most books don’t and I think that is a sign of a great book.
DEATH IN HER HANDS is a claustrophobic novel, which was really intensified for me by the current isolation of quarantine and social-distancing. This book explores loneliness, trauma, abusive relationships, the power of the mind, and the stories we tell ourselves to survive. I know not everyone is going to like this book. It’s a twisted ride and the end left questions unanswered. But for me, it was unlike any book I’ve ever read and it consumed my mind!
I’m embarrassed to admit that this is my first experience with Moshfegh’s writing. But don’t worry: I’ve drank the Kool-Aid, I’m fully on board, I’m a forever fan and I will definitely be buying all her other books!!
** Penguin Press provided the book for honest review.
- Title: Death in Her Hands
- Author: Ottessa Moshfegh
- Published: June 23, 2020 (Penguin Press)
- Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
- Booky Nooky Rating: * * * *