Death in Her Hands: A Novel (Large Print / Paperback)
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"It was an odd thing to feel impelled to retrieve. Such are instincts. They aren't always reasonable, and often they lead us down dangerous paths."
I'll be honest, I spent most of DEATH IN HER HANDS trying to figure out what was going on. At times Gothic, at times thriller, at times biting commentary on aging, this slots perfectly into Moshfegh's defiance of genre. The main character, an elderly widow who lives on a former campground, and her dog find a note that sets her on a journey to find the story of Magda, who is evidently dead though there is no body. Is our narrator imagining things? Is she the victim of a prank? Is she a reliable or unreliable narrator? Much of this remains a mystery through the final page, but the writing makes the journey one worth taking.
Content Warnings for various descriptions of murder and suicide, violent pet death, infidelity, sexual assault— Faith
May 2020 Indie Next List
“Ottessa Moshfegh is a modern-day Camus. A woman finds a note in the woods that proclaims someone is dead. Murdered, in fact. She investigates between dog walks and early evening naps but soon facts, memories, and suppositions entwine and overlap until the simple act of asking a question can unravel the thread of an entire life. Ponderous, violent, forgetful, and deft, Death in Her Hands is a genre-bender that teases you into asking, Is this noir? Horror? A whacked-out farce? Or a sly literary trick? I’ll tell you what it is — absolutely brilliant.”
— Chris Lee, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
"[An] intricate and unsettling new novel . . . Death in Her Hands is not a murder mystery, nor is it really a story about self-deception or the perils of escapism. Rather, it's a haunting meditation on the nature and meaning of art."
-Kevin Power, The New Yorker
From one of our most ceaselessly provocative literary talents, a novel of haunting metaphysical suspense about an elderly widow whose life is upturned when she finds an ominous note on a walk in the woods.
While on her daily walk with her dog in a secluded woods, a woman comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground by stones. "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. Our narrator is deeply shaken; she has no idea what to make of this. She is new to this area, alone after the death of her husband, and she knows no one.
Becoming obsessed with solving this mystery, our narrator imagines who Magda was and how she met her fate. With very little to go on, she invents a list of murder suspects and possible motives for the crime. Oddly, her suppositions begin to find correspondences in the real world, and with mounting excitement and dread, the fog of mystery starts to fade into menacing certainty. As her investigation widens, strange dissonances accrue, perhaps associated with the darkness in her own past; we must face the prospect that there is either an innocent explanation for all this or a much more sinister one.
A triumphant blend of horror, suspense, and pitch-black comedy, Death in Her Hands asks us to consider how the stories we tell ourselves both reflect the truth and keep us blind to it. Once again, we are in the hands of a narrator whose unreliability is well earned, and the stakes have never been higher.
About the Author
Ottessa Moshfegh is the author of My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a New York Times bestseller; Homesick for Another World, a New York Times Book Review notable book of the year; Eileen, which was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction; and McGlue, which won the Fence Modern Prize in Prose and the Believer Book Award. Her stories have earned her a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award, the Plimpton Prize, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.