Death in Her Hands
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 more innocent explanation for all this or a much more sinister one - one that strikes closer to home.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 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.

Death in Her Hands Details

TitleDeath in Her Hands
Author
ReleaseJun 23rd, 2020
PublisherPenguin Press
ISBN-139781984879356
Rating
GenreFiction, Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Literary Fiction

Death in Her Hands Review

  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    I have to be honest here and admit that I just didn't get this book. Ottessa Moshfegh is so insanely talented as a writer but this book was utterly pointless. We have a 72 year old woman (a widow) that lives in almost complete solitude with her dog, Charlie, in a cabin on a lake. While out walking she finds a note: "Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body." However, there is no body and Vesta becomes completely obsessed in solving the myste I have to be honest here and admit that I just didn't get this book. Ottessa Moshfegh is so insanely talented as a writer but this book was utterly pointless. We have a 72 year old woman (a widow) that lives in almost complete solitude with her dog, Charlie, in a cabin on a lake. While out walking she finds a note: "Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body." However, there is no body and Vesta becomes completely obsessed in solving the mystery of Magda. She creates a complete back story on Magda, who she is, what she was like, to how her death came to be. Going as so far as meeting strangers and giving them roles in her narrative. Essentially this is a story being told within a story. We all know that Ottessa embraces the oddball, eccentric, and unlikable characters quite well and she shines here with our dear Vesta. She is also able to create a claustrophobic atmosphere and there are a couple downright creepy scenes but I needed more than that to enjoy this. Word of warning: This woman HATES fat people and it's mentioned over and over and over again. There is also killing of an animal which I personally could have lived without reading. I have read the ending twice now and I am still trying to figure out the point. I hate finishing a book and thinking that it was a complete waste of time but sadly that is how I feel here. Maybe this is a meditation on loneliness and unfulfilled desires due to a domineering and unfaithful husband. I don't know. Eileen will remain a favorite of mine but I have yet to read anything else by this author that satisfies me even though I love her writing style. 2 stars!Thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin Press for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.
    more
  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    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 it: "Here 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 it: "Here name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body." There 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 playfulness ("Mystery was an artless gernre, that much was obvious"). Many 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 being "Things 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.
    more
  • Read By RodKelly
    January 1, 1970
    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 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, more 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 mores 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. ⁣
    more
  • Olivia (Stories For Coffee)
    January 1, 1970
    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, more. 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 was more interesting than the book itself, which let me down, a lot. CONTENT WARNING: Death of an animal, fatphobiaSEE MORE OF MY REVIEWS AT STORIESFORCOFFEE.COM
    more
  • Blair
    January 1, 1970
    (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 lot more once 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
    more
  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    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 ways) 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 ways); and tackle the oppressions of living under a patriarchy. The more overt 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, with more ostensible 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.
    more
  • Marchpane
    January 1, 1970
    Death in Her Hands begins 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 th Death in Her Hands begins 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 becomes more and more slippery. Vesta reveals more about 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.
    more
  • Cortney LaScola - The Bookworm Myrtle Beach
    January 1, 1970
    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.
    more
  • Jillian Doherty
    January 1, 1970
    I was elated to discover we have a new Ottessa novel coming this spring!! I may have an author crush on her - I'd read a grocery store list if she wrote it ;)I feel like most of her stories have an essence of other authors... Eileen was very Shirley JacksonRest and Relaxation was Chuck PalahniukDeath in Her Hands is a combo of Olga Tokarczuk's Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, and the inventive story telling that hearkened from Girl on the Train!I could have read another 100 pages if a I was elated to discover we have a new Ottessa novel coming this spring!! I may have an author crush on her - I'd read a grocery store list if she wrote it ;)I feel like most of her stories have an essence of other authors... Eileen was very Shirley JacksonRest and Relaxation was Chuck PalahniukDeath in Her Hands is a combo of Olga Tokarczuk's Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, and the inventive story telling that hearkened from Girl on the Train!I could have read another 100 pages if able~Galley borrowed from the publisher.
    more
  • Emily B
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for a copy of this novel.Ottessa Moshfegh novels all seems quite different to each other and this is no exception. While I enjoy Moshfegh’s writing style and flew through this book, overall I neither hated it or loved it. The novel consists of a rambling stream of consciousness of the unreliable protagonist and her wild imagination. I have to admit that I was sort of waiting for this to stop and something more concrete to emerge which it didn’t quite.
    more
  • Samantha
    January 1, 1970
    A meandering, inane plot that goes nowhere, a pet murder, and one of the most unlikable protagonists I’ve ever encountered. Moshfegh writes SO beautifully that is seems like it should be impossible for any of her work to have such poor results, yet here we are. I loved My Year of Rest and Relaxation. It made me think Moshfegh could do no wrong. Then I read MGlue and wasn’t thrilled with it. I was hoping that this book would be more on par with Rest and Relaxation, but instead found it to be the A meandering, inane plot that goes nowhere, a pet murder, and one of the most unlikable protagonists I’ve ever encountered. Moshfegh writes SO beautifully that is seems like it should be impossible for any of her work to have such poor results, yet here we are. I loved My Year of Rest and Relaxation. It made me think Moshfegh could do no wrong. Then I read MGlue and wasn’t thrilled with it. I was hoping that this book would be more on par with Rest and Relaxation, but instead found it to be the worst of the lot. It’s frustrating, because much like in McGlue, Moshfegh gives us stellar tone and poignant turns of phrase in Death in her Hands. But alas, the plot. Oh, the plot. I wouldn’t have minded the slow and meandering pace if the story had gone somewhere satisfying, if the protagonist hadn’t been so deeply unlikable, if the whole mess hadn’t felt so utterly pointless. I don’t care for riffing for riffing’s sake in novels unless it’s exceptionally funny or exceptionally observant, and the endless diatribes populating this book are neither. Lots of weirdness for weirdness sake as well, which always feels like an author losing touch with the realization that there’s a reader on the other end of things.I hate criticizing Moshfegh because I think she has many gifts as a writer, but this book was a colossal waste of the energy spent reading it.*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
    more
  • Ylenia
    January 1, 1970
    4.25I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early e-copy of Death in Her Hands, the newest release of one of my favorite authors - Ottessa Moshfegh."Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body."This is the note the main character, Vesta, a 72-years-old woman, finds one day while she's out in the woods walking her dog. This is the start of one the best/worst mind trips I've ever had the pleasure to read.This book took me back to the time I read E 4.25I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early e-copy of Death in Her Hands, the newest release of one of my favorite authors - Ottessa Moshfegh."Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body."This is the note the main character, Vesta, a 72-years-old woman, finds one day while she's out in the woods walking her dog. This is the start of one the best/worst mind trips I've ever had the pleasure to read.This book took me back to the time I read Eileen, her 2015 release & Booker Prize nominee.It started slowly - hinting at her unhappy marriage, her everyday routine, her isolation from the rest of the town.Vesta's uncontrollable imagination made me doubt what was real & what wasn't, the same doubt that kept me glued to the book. Reading how her reality was spinning out of control made me feel claustrophobic & anxious.Death in Her Hands is a one-sitting kind of book & I would recommend dedicating your time fully to its pages, to appreciate the journey inside Vesta's mind. This book requires your undivided attention, or it will try to fuck with your mind.Death in Her Hands will not be the right book for every kind of reader out there, like all of her novels. Although the atmosphere reminded me of Eileen or her novella, McGlue, I discovered a totally new mystique within these pages.
    more
  • Abbie | ab_reads
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you @penguinpress for my free early copy of Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh! This one did not disappoint, falling in between Eileen (3.5⭐️) and My Year of Rest and Relaxation (4.5⭐️) for me. When Vesta finds a cryptic note about a dead girl called Magda in the woods near her home but no body, she becomes obsessed with solving this ‘crime’ that may or may not have happened..There’s an unnerving sense of claustrophobia being inside Vesta’s head the entire novel. Her thoughts run riot, Thank you @penguinpress for my free early copy of Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh! This one did not disappoint, falling in between Eileen (3.5⭐️) and My Year of Rest and Relaxation (4.5⭐️) for me. When Vesta finds a cryptic note about a dead girl called Magda in the woods near her home but no body, she becomes obsessed with solving this ‘crime’ that may or may not have happened..There’s an unnerving sense of claustrophobia being inside Vesta’s head the entire novel. Her thoughts run riot, each one branching off into a dozen new ones, all based on what if, what if, what if? You end up losing track of what’s real and what’s merely a figment of a lonely old woman’s imagination. Anyone who has an anxious, overly active imagination will find Vesta somewhat relatable - if I found a cryptic note in the forest like that my mind would jump to similar places, building up the most unlikely scenarios in my head until the thoughts were all-consuming..There’s also a pulsing undercurrent of tension running throughout, simple, single lines which, when you read them, make your heart jump into your throat. Little things, like the thought of a home intruder invading your privacy, someone lingering in the shadows of the woods, just outside of your line of vision....As with all of Moshfegh’s characters, there’s a vein of darkness running through Vesta; it seems like she takes pleasure at the thought of other people’s discomfort, although only those she thinks are deserving of it in some way. As her grip on reality slips, she starts to plumb the depths of her past, reflecting on her unfulfilled life with a manipulative and unfaithful husband. I’m still not sure where I stand on the ending, but ultimately it’s a heartbreaking depiction of where a deteriorating mind might take you.An intense character study that gave me Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead vibes, I have a feeling this one will divide readers, but I loved it!
    more
  • Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsDeath in Her Hands is my first Moshfegh novel and it did not disappoint!  "It would be a very strange thing to see, some old woman in her dusty coat grasping Death in her hands and whistling into the forest."72-year-old Vesta is walking through the woods with her dog when she finds a very matter-of-fact note on the ground:"Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body."Yet there is no body to be discovered in the forest.  The lonely widow 3.5 starsDeath in Her Hands is my first Moshfegh novel and it did not disappoint!  "It would be a very strange thing to see, some old woman in her dusty coat grasping Death in her hands and whistling into the forest."72-year-old Vesta is walking through the woods with her dog when she finds a very matter-of-fact note on the ground:"Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body."Yet there is no body to be discovered in the forest.  The lonely widow wanders home, thinking of the note she found.  Who was Magda?  Who is the anonymous note writer?  Vesta's imagination runs wild as she decides to write down her interpretation of the lives of these two people unknown to her and hopefully make contact with the writer to solve the mystery.This is a book you could read in one sitting!  The tension is high, Vesta's loneliness and isolation are almost palpable, and her imagination leads to some dark places as readers discover her past and watch the mystery consume her.Death in Her Hands is a brilliant psychological thriller that readers will certainly be divided on due to an ending that is open to interpretation.Thanks to Edelweiss and Penguin Press for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  Death in Her Hands is scheduled for release on April 21, 2020.For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
    more
  • Mark Mazzuca
    January 1, 1970
    Look, I hate to say this but you spend a ton of time in her mind in very long paragraphs about varying topics. This is usually Ottessa’s strong point but not as sharp as previous books, and I didn’t feel the plot was moving in a satisfying way. I didn’t particularly care about anyone in the book or find them compelling. She is still one of the best authors alive and I will fight everyone on Good Reads who disagrees but the earlier books landed much better for me. Utterly pointless is a good way Look, I hate to say this but you spend a ton of time in her mind in very long paragraphs about varying topics. This is usually Ottessa’s strong point but not as sharp as previous books, and I didn’t feel the plot was moving in a satisfying way. I didn’t particularly care about anyone in the book or find them compelling. She is still one of the best authors alive and I will fight everyone on Good Reads who disagrees but the earlier books landed much better for me. Utterly pointless is a good way to describe the book, and I had so much anticipation for this book.
    more
  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    Eileen meets Janina, as Ottessa goes meta. Mystery was an artless genre, that much was obvious. Not that the more literary novels I had borrowed from the library seemed any more inspired. What got put on the library shelves was all the stuff that won’t surprise you. Blake’s invitation, or poem, I could call it, wouldn’t have made it onto anybody’s nightstand: it was too weird. Her name was Magda. What kind of opening was that? An editor would deem the note too dark to publish. Too much too soo Eileen meets Janina, as Ottessa goes meta. Mystery was an artless genre, that much was obvious. Not that the more literary novels I had borrowed from the library seemed any more inspired. What got put on the library shelves was all the stuff that won’t surprise you. Blake’s invitation, or poem, I could call it, wouldn’t have made it onto anybody’s nightstand: it was too weird. Her name was Magda. What kind of opening was that? An editor would deem the note too dark to publish. Too much too soon, they’d say. Or it wasn’t suspenseful enough. Too queer. I tried to remember the openings of the last few books I’d read. I couldn’t. An elderly woman of Eastern European origins, living on her own in something of a backwater, sets out to investigate a murder mystery largely of her own invention. She falls out with the local police and with the locals who see her as an eccentric oddball and she in turn despises as fat and stupid (as we see from her first party viewpoint). Her dog disappears, she invents names for her neighbours, religious references abound.Its hard to read the blurb for this book – and even harder to read it, without immediately thinking of Olga Tokarczuk’s “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” – so much so that a couple of times I had the odd sensation of thinking I had already read passages (particularly those relating to the narrators interactions with others where she occasionally sees how she appears to others and we get a glimpse of the vulnerability behind her bluster). But this is not in any way to accuse the author of plagiarism or unattributed borrowing (in this book which was apparently first drafted back in 2015), because the signs are made even more obvious for a reader when the narrator of this story Vesta) invents her first protagonist – one who she decides has left the note “Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here his her dead body” which starts the book and the murder mystery investigation. Because the protagonist is named by her ............. “Blake”. (As an aside I was reminded of the end of the first chapter of "Eileen" - ‘So here we are. My name was Eileen Dunlop. Now you know me… This is the story of how I disappeared.)Later when Vesta accidentally stumbles across a copy of William Blake’s collected poems with a spookily suitable poem underlined which happens to include: “They stumble all night over the bones of the dead”, two things occur: the reader becomes clearer (if they were not already) on what is going on with Vesta and at the next level up, the reader becomes clearer (if they were not already) on what Moshfegh is doing.And the meta-approach extends, I think, to Moshfegh’s own work. On the shortlisting of Eileen, Moshfegh gave a rather infamous Guardian interview (https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...) in which she claimed that she initially wrote “Eileen” using the template of a how-to-write-a-bestseller guide. An interview she now says harmed her chance for the prize and “made it sound like I just filled in the blanks and got lucky.”So what else does Magda do in the library – but look up (via Ask Jeeves – a nice touch, reflecting the general fustiness of Magda) a guide to “Top Tips for Mystery Writers” and downloads a “character profile questionnaire” which Moshfegh then uses via Vesta to develop the character of Magda - literally filling in the blanks of the questionnaire.All this is shot through with Moshfegh’s own style – Vesta (of course) has to omit washing/showering for days at a time and the dog (of course) is flatulent. When contemplating the Top Tips recommendation to read lots of other mysteries, Magda says: “That seemed ridiculous advice. The last thing anyone should do is stuff her head full of other people’s ways of doing things. That would take all the fun out. Does one study children before copulating to produce one? Does one perform a thorough examination of others’ feces before rushing to the toilet?” As with all the author's writing it can be hard to disassociate the misanthropy of her characters from the author's own views - the opening quote being an example.I have to say both “Eileen” and “Drive Your Plow” were books I particularly disliked but I did find myself drawn to their mash-up.My thanks to Random House UK for an ARC via NetGalley.
    more
  • Krista
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't want to be wandering around Levant once night fell. It would be a very strange thing to see, some old woman in her dusty coat grasping Death in her hands and whistling into the forest. Ghod, on his way to the party, would surely stop to ask if I'd lost my mind. Death in Her Hands is (no surprises here, coming as it does from the singular mind of Ottessa Moshfegh) weirdly experimental and oddly affecting. Whereas Moshfegh's previous bestsellers (Eileen and My Year of Rest and Relaxati I didn't want to be wandering around Levant once night fell. It would be a very strange thing to see, some old woman in her dusty coat grasping Death in her hands and whistling into the forest. Ghod, on his way to the party, would surely stop to ask if I'd lost my mind. Death in Her Hands is (no surprises here, coming as it does from the singular mind of Ottessa Moshfegh) weirdly experimental and oddly affecting. Whereas Moshfegh's previous bestsellers (Eileen and My Year of Rest and Relaxation) used black humour and uncomfortably unmentionable material to explore the unhinged uninhibited inner minds of young women, in this outing the protagonist is 72-year-old Vesta Gul – a new widow, recently transplanted to a remote cabin in the woods in an unfamiliar state – and the reader is trapped in Vesta's claustrophobic “mindspace” as she finds herself working through an apparent murder mystery. This book seems like one thing, veers off into an entirely different direction, and ends up exposing the lifetime of hurts that created this forgotten old woman's obsessive interiority. Part creepshow, part whodunit, with layers of irony you can feel in your fillings, I was left with an overwhelming empathy and sadness for all the Vestas out there; what Moshfegh's previous books exposed about the inner lives of young women, Death in Her Hands does for an elderly woman looking back on her life, and if you have any interest in a short, offbeat, and disquieting journey, I'd recommend visiting with Vesta in her cabin by the lake. (Note: I read an ARC and passages quoted may not be in their final forms. More on this at the end.) It all begins with a note: Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body. While out walking her dog Charlie (“some bastard combination of Labrador and Weimaraner” according to the vet) in the birch woods adjacent to her cabin, Vesta Gul (meant to sound like the seabird but the locals keep mispronouncing it as “ghoul”) discovers this note on the path, and quickly pockets it. Vesta – a longtime reader of detective fiction – begins to obsess about the details of the note: Who could Magda have been? Is she really dead? Who wrote it? As Vesta begins to imagine answers to these questions, she finds herself both creating a mystery narrative and starring in one, and as the story evolves, the line between imagination and reality becomes ever more murky; the dangers ever more manifest as Vesta goes about her life in a remote cabin in the woods, no phone, no family, no friends, with only her dog for protection and companionship. What if the doctors were wrong? What if the mindspace was not something made by the brain, and what if it continued even after death? Oh, I could get carried away imagining all sorts of theories. At times I wondered, Walter, are you hearing all this? Was he still up there, sharing the mindspace with me? What would he think if he could see me in this new life in Levant, a single old lady in the woods, with a dog? Walter always hated dogs. How did I love a man who hated dogs? We all have our quirks and issues, I told myself. There's plenty that could be said about the strange metafictive mystery-story-within-a-mystery-novel, and the intriguing clues from the Bible and Blake (not just the weirdly Biblical place/character names and the serendipitous discovery of “The Voice of the Ancient Bard”, but the fact that “blood-rimmed tide” can be found in both the Bible and Blake). But the most interesting aspect of Death in Her Hands, to me, was the slow revelation of the details of Vesta's long marriage to the academic Walter Gul, a German epistemologist, and the sad fact that his lecturing and condescending voice was still dominating her mindspace after his death. Every impulsive decision or action that Vesta takes seems to be in defiance of the lingering Walter's expectations, and that not only makes more sense of some strange events, but it also feels very truthful...and sad. The last thing I want to note has to do with the strange formatting of my digital ARC, and as no one else has written about it, I'm going to stick it behind spoiler tags until I can compare to a physical copy. (view spoiler)[I don't know why it caught my eye, but the copyright page for Death in Her Hands has a longer statement than usual: Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader. I don't know if that's Penguin's usual statement, but it does, naturally, make me doubly uneasy about quoting even as meagerly as I did here. But what's even stranger, is that the words “Not for Distribution” are stamped on some of the pages throughout this book, in a ghostly background font, sometimes all three words, and sometimes just one or two. Lines of the text can also be broken up, stuttering or appearing out of order, in large, bold letters, and the ghostly Not for Distribution seems to interact intentionally with these phrases – as though it's Walter, as negative and prescriptive as in life, interrupting Vesta's thoughts. A more or less random example of one page in its entirety: (hide spoiler)] Because the formatting constantly required me to stop and interpret meaning – always wondering just how intentional the effect was meant to be; is this just how the digital ARC turned out? – I found that it made for a more interactive reading experience for me (and I hope it is a part of the physical book as well). Ultimately, everything about this book was suited to my tastes – the eeriness, the ironies, the exposition of a woman's experience – and while I acknowledge that this wouldn't be for everyone, it certainly was for me.
    more
  • truedeceiver
    January 1, 1970
    Dark and twisted. A woman come undone in the wilderness. Haunted by many ghosts. Pursued by a mystery. The mind is a terrible wonderful thing and Moshfegh knows it very well.
  • Dianah
    January 1, 1970
    Ottessa Moshfegh spins out an intricate, layered character study in Death in Her Hands. Vesta is far from a reliable narrator, so her inner monologue of finding a clue to what she believes may be a murder is fraught with conflict, obsfucation, both vague and crystal clear interpretations of data, and the kind of scattered thinking that might indicate dementia. Determined to figure out the murder, Vesta doggedly pursues the cold trail, but comes up with more questions than answers. Moshfegh is a Ottessa Moshfegh spins out an intricate, layered character study in Death in Her Hands. Vesta is far from a reliable narrator, so her inner monologue of finding a clue to what she believes may be a murder is fraught with conflict, obsfucation, both vague and crystal clear interpretations of data, and the kind of scattered thinking that might indicate dementia. Determined to figure out the murder, Vesta doggedly pursues the cold trail, but comes up with more questions than answers. Moshfegh is a peerless genius at crafting unlikable characters, and this one is exquisitely done. Nerve-wracking and tense, with a deep dive into her protagonist's psyche, Moshfegh writes a novel that serves as an epiphany for what is possible in fiction. Excellent!
    more
  • Tyler Goodson
    January 1, 1970
    At first, it seems to be about the act of imagining and writing a story. The novel keeps reminding you that the “story” and “characters” in it are creations of Vesta, who is herself a creation. It gets scary when the things you thought Vesta was making up turn out to be real. This is a fascinating, and eerie exercise in novel writing, and reminded me of The Keep by Jennifer Egan, another darkly bonkers experiment in storytelling.
    more
  • Chris Haak
    January 1, 1970
    A bit of a slow start, but a brilliant second half (though the ending almost had me in tears...). Moshfegh is a great & original writer and just never lets me down!Thank you Random House US and Edelweiss for the ARC. A bit of a slow start, but a brilliant second half (though the ending almost had me in tears...). Moshfegh is a great & original writer and just never lets me down!Thank you Random House US and Edelweiss for the ARC.
    more
  • Faroukh Naseem
    January 1, 1970
    I have an unreasonable appreciation for lonesome characters in what can only be defined as claustrophobic situations. Ottessa Moshfegh delivers both of that in the most satisfying way possible..#theguywiththebookreview presents Death in her Hands (Thank you @penguinpress for the free copy!).Our protagonist finds a note that says ‘Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body’ but her body isn’t there. She’s an old widow and lives alone in the woods I have an unreasonable appreciation for lonesome characters in what can only be defined as claustrophobic situations. Ottessa Moshfegh delivers both of that in the most satisfying way possible..#theguywiththebookreview presents Death in her Hands (Thank you @penguinpress for the free copy!).Our protagonist finds a note that says ‘Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body’ but her body isn’t there. She’s an old widow and lives alone in the woods where she’s moved recently and has only her dog for company..You could say that she’s the definition of what an unreliable narrator is. Has an extraordinary appetite to go in tangents of thoughts and imagine all sorts of reasonable but mostly unreasonable things..Without giving away too much she is all in in this search for the killer and the dead girl..The plot thickens at the right moments and the book seamlessly flows through to the end. At times hilariously endearing and often amusing, Death in her Hands is a definite recommendation for readers who like a unique plot and like lone character narratives..If you liked this review and would like to talk books with me, find me on Instagram (at)theguywiththebook :) Happy Reading!
    more
  • Jessica Klahr
    January 1, 1970
    When I saw that there was a new Ottessa book on the horizon I knew there was no way I was going to be able to wait until APRIL to read it so thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin Press for making an e-ARC of this one available to me. The best way I can think of to describe this book is a character study on steroids. If one were to track the action in this book, it would take up maybe five bullet points. What we get instead is the entire universe of the story seen through and because of the eyes of When I saw that there was a new Ottessa book on the horizon I knew there was no way I was going to be able to wait until APRIL to read it so thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin Press for making an e-ARC of this one available to me. The best way I can think of to describe this book is a character study on steroids. If one were to track the action in this book, it would take up maybe five bullet points. What we get instead is the entire universe of the story seen through and because of the eyes of the narrator Vesta. While the author is known for intense characters and also weirdly gross bodily functions, I think she should get way more kudos for how completely she can takeover the mind of a character. Vesta is a 72 year old widow who lives with her dog, Charlie, in a cabin by a lake in a sparsely populated town. Vesta has very little in common with the author on paper but she was somehow able to capture everything about Vesta so completely and unrelentingly that I constantly thought about my grandmothers and things I would discuss with them while reading this book. It’s uncanny how well she knew and displayed this character. The story starts out at a relatively even pace. Vesta finds a weird note in the woods on her walk, and this troubles her, but we get a lot of information about Vesta and her ordinary uneventful life that is somehow riveting to read about. The note mentions a girl named Magda whose body is said to be in the woods and Vesta invents a whole background for Magda as well as the people she would think Magda interacts with. It’s a story within a story and as you’re reading you’re constantly wondering whether or not Vesta could be right about any of this. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Vesta goes to the library and prints out a questionnaire that she finds on the internet that mystery writers use to fill in details about their main character. Vesta fills in a decently comprehensive story for Magda based on literally nothing besides her name. As the story goes along, we learn more about her late husband, who sounds decent at the beginning of the book but less so as more and more details of their life together are filled in. There were also some of the author’s signature weird characters and deadpan dialogue. Mostly though, I was completely entranced with Vesta and how she saw the world. After things went along for a while, I got up to 95% through the ebook and I still had no idea what direction the story was going finish in but the ending felt both inevitable and satisfying. While I wouldn’t say immediately that this jumps to the top of my favorite Ottessa Moshfegh list (hard to beat My Year of Rest and Relaxation), this is an exciting and progressive edition to her library. I can’t wait to reread it when the physical copy is released in the spring.
    more
  • Jessica Sullivan
    January 1, 1970
    I love Ottessa Moshfegh, and I love the premise of this novel, but it really wasn’t for me.Vesta is an old widow living by herself in a rural cabin with her dog, Charlie. Her husband, Walter, died recently and now she is all alone. While walking in the woods one day, she finds a cryptic note stating that Magda is dead, and becomes obsessed with it. She doesn’t know who Magda is, so she makes up a story about her as she attempts to solve her mystery. Lines between delusion and reality blur, and V I love Ottessa Moshfegh, and I love the premise of this novel, but it really wasn’t for me.Vesta is an old widow living by herself in a rural cabin with her dog, Charlie. Her husband, Walter, died recently and now she is all alone. While walking in the woods one day, she finds a cryptic note stating that Magda is dead, and becomes obsessed with it. She doesn’t know who Magda is, so she makes up a story about her as she attempts to solve her mystery. Lines between delusion and reality blur, and Vesta’s fixation on Magda brings her closer to her own truth.Like most of Moshfegh’s novels, there’s a lot of internal monologue. But I just didn’t find Vesta a compelling enough character to want to reside in her mind for an entire book. There is some interesting commentary about death, and a meta component to it as Vesta meditates on what makes a good mystery. The tone is infused with subtle dread and menace.I think many people will enjoy this creepy character study, but it just didn’t grab me the way I hoped it would, especially after loving Eileen and My Year of Rest and Relaxation.
    more
  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    The first line of "Death in Her Hands" presents us with a challenge or puzzle: Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body. This enigmatic confession/defence is anonymously handwritten on a note left in a path in the woods, outside the New England town of Levant. It is discovered by Vesta, a seventy-two-year-old widow who has recently moved to a cabin in the area, following the death of her husband Walter. Vesta Gul (pronounced “like the ocean bi The first line of "Death in Her Hands" presents us with a challenge or puzzle: Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body. This enigmatic confession/defence is anonymously handwritten on a note left in a path in the woods, outside the New England town of Levant. It is discovered by Vesta, a seventy-two-year-old widow who has recently moved to a cabin in the area, following the death of her husband Walter. Vesta Gul (pronounced “like the ocean bird”) leads a solitary life, her only company being her dog Charlie. The note – with no body to go with it – sparks Vesta’s overactive imagination. She starts building theories as to who “Magda” might have been and who might have killed her. She gives Magda flesh and blood and a backstory. As Vesta becomes increasingly confused, the divide between reality and Vesta’s imagination becomes increasingly blurred, as the characters she invents step into the novel itself. The result is, at one level, a witty piece of meta-fiction which borrows and satirizes the tropes of crime novels. There is a brilliant scene in which Vesta uses the “Ask Jeeves” search engine on a computer terminal at the local library: “Is Magda dead?” I Asked Jeeves. What I found were 626,000 web pages, the first dozen devoted to a tragic story of how a young British fan of what seemed to be a highly successful all-boy band…dropped dead one morning waiting for the school bus.Vesta later asks “How does one solve a murder mystery?”. The search results are close to advice on writing a crime novel…. “Make a list of suspects. Ask each suspect outright “Why did you murder [victim]?” Base your strategy around finding the liar.” Indeed, Vesta soon stumbles upon a website with “top tips for mystery writers” although she is dismissive of what she finds there: “Reading lots of mysteries is essential.” That seemed like ridiculous advice. The last thing anyone should do is stuff her head full of other people’s ways of doing things. That would take all the fun out. Does one study children before copulating to produce one? Does one perform a through examination of others’ feces before rushing to the toilet? Does one go around asking people to recount their dreams before going to sleep? No. Composing a mystery was a creative endeavour, not some calculate procedure. If you know how the story ends, why even begin? The real mystery is Vesta herself and her role in the novel: is she an investigator, a sort of eccentric Miss Marple, or is she a "conceptual" author figure, making up the story we’re reading?Vesta increasingly reveals details about her former life as the wife of Walter Gul, a German epistemologist of Turkish descent who, it seems, treated his wife as merely a pretty decoration to take to parties, whilst bedding a succession of young students. We learn about her daily hurts, the decades of being treated disdainfully and patronizingly, a life of suspicion and lies. Although, of course, with a narrator like Vesta, we can never be sure of where truth ends and fiction begins.In true “mystery” fashion, Moshfegh throws several red herrings into the mix. Except that in the case of this novel, these do not relate to the plot, but to the meaning behind the novel itself. There seem to be certain autobiographical elements (Vesta has Croatian roots and Moshfegh herself is half-Croatian), references to the poetry of Blake and Yeats, as well as puzzling religious references: the murder victim is called “Magda(len)”, there is a town called Bethsmane (Bethlehem + Gethsemane) and one of the potential suspects is a policeman called “Ghod”. All this seems to point to some obscure gnostic truth. But my view is these are all games which Moshfegh likes to play. She has herself described her novel as a “loneliness story” – and perhaps that’s the kernel of the book. Behind the black comedy and the stylistic pyrotechnics, this is a strangely touching novel about the loneliness of a long-suffering woman.4.5*https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/20...
    more
  • BookOfCinz
    January 1, 1970
    In Ottessa Moshfegh’s Death In Her Hands we meet Vesta, a 72 year old woman who recently lost her husband and is trying to live and build some semblance of a life. With the death of her husband Vesta decided to relocate to a remote town to live on a lake side cabin. Vesta is a recluse and her main interaction is with her dog Charlie. Her routine is set, morning walks, gardening, breakfast, listening to Pastor Jimmy and sleeping. It is during one of Vesta’s morning walk with Charlie that she fi In Ottessa Moshfegh’s Death In Her Hands we meet Vesta, a 72 year old woman who recently lost her husband and is trying to live and build some semblance of a life. With the death of her husband Vesta decided to relocate to a remote town to live on a lake side cabin. Vesta is a recluse and her main interaction is with her dog Charlie. Her routine is set, morning walks, gardening, breakfast, listening to Pastor Jimmy and sleeping. It is during one of Vesta’s morning walk with Charlie that she finds a note that read: “"Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body. To say Vesta became fixated on this note would be the understatement of a century, it was all she thought about for the next 220 pages. Through her very active imagination she created a entire backstory and life for Magda that lead to her doom. She also created a backstory for the murderer and why he actually killed her. Vesta went as far as developing a whole storyline and assigning roles to the people she saw during her visit to the Town Centre. To be put simply, Vesta became obsessed with Madga and the person who wrote the note, which did not play out well for Vesta in the end. Having read Ottessa’s previous book My Year of Rest and Relaxation I knew I would be in for some weird ass shit. I knew I would finish the book wondering “what.the.entire.f*ck” but nothing could prepare me for the craziness that was Death in Her Hands. As someone with an insanely wild imagination I can see myself going down the initial rabbit hole that Vesta went down but then as a rational thinking person I would pause and hand it over to the police…. Not Vesta. I enjoyed the start but halfway through I kept thinking “we are really not going to stop talking about Madga?” “how long is Ottessa going to drag this out?” Answer: the entire book. I am still not sure how I feel about this book. One part of me is annoyed and the other part of me appreciates Ottessa’s ability to write and really pull you in. She writes unlikeable characters like no other and I have to stan. This is a book you will either absolutely love or detest….
    more
  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    What I love about Moshfegh's writing is how unique it is and how she has the ability to make things feel *just* slightly out of touch with reality while still feeling incredibly relatable. Her characters are always lonely women in search of something and I find that they are relatable in certain ways while acting in ways that I could never imagine acting. Her writing falls more towards just the 'dark' side of that genre for me but there is something a bit dreamy and almost fever dream-esque abou What I love about Moshfegh's writing is how unique it is and how she has the ability to make things feel *just* slightly out of touch with reality while still feeling incredibly relatable. Her characters are always lonely women in search of something and I find that they are relatable in certain ways while acting in ways that I could never imagine acting. Her writing falls more towards just the 'dark' side of that genre for me but there is something a bit dreamy and almost fever dream-esque about her writing. I love her blend of dark humor and unsettling descriptions and strange way of looking at the world. ⁠⁠DEATH IN HER HANDS follows a lonely, older woman who has recently lost her husband. She moves east and settles into a rural town at an old cabin with her beloved dog. She soon gets swept up in a mystery and as she begins to unravel the mystery we slowly start to see the cracks in her own story.⁠⁠This one was dark and funny and uncomfortable and I really enjoyed it! It stayed with me for days after I finish (as she tends to do). I'd say this one falls right in between MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION and EILEEN for me, in terms of how much I liked it⁠
    more
  • Corinne
    January 1, 1970
    I have loved and evangelized Moshfegh's novels My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Eileen. This one just doesn't clear the bar for me.After the death of her husband, Vesta Gul moves to a cabin in a secluded wooded area. On a walk through the woods with her beloved dog, Charlie, she comes across a note that seems to suggest there has been a murder of a young woman named Magda. It features many of the standard Moshfegh-isms. The imagery is grimy, the humor is dark, Vesta has weird eating habits, pe I have loved and evangelized Moshfegh's novels My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Eileen. This one just doesn't clear the bar for me.After the death of her husband, Vesta Gul moves to a cabin in a secluded wooded area. On a walk through the woods with her beloved dog, Charlie, she comes across a note that seems to suggest there has been a murder of a young woman named Magda. It features many of the standard Moshfegh-isms. The imagery is grimy, the humor is dark, Vesta has weird eating habits, people are mean.Instead of working like a detective novel, the book feels more like the process of writing a novel. The center section is literally a writing exercise as Vesta's obsession with the note leads her to invent an elaborate backstory for Magda and her life in the small town where they live. It's... not fun to read. I don't know why I should care that what this person is narrating is made up when I am reading a novel that is, by definition, a narrative about a made up thing, but I'll repeat: it's not fun to read. Later parts pick up as her paranoia increases, but it's too little too late. For a 150ish page book, it felt both rushed and bloated.There are also a suspicious number of similarities between Death in Her Hands and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. Both feature first person narration by older women living in relative isolation in the woods with(out) their dogs, Eastern European backgrounds, Blake poems feature prominently, mysterious deaths/disappearances. I'm not saying it's ripped off, but I'd genuinely be shocked to hear Moshfegh hasn't read Drive Your Plow.I hear the publication of the novel has been pushed back to August due to COVID-19 related publishing/manufacturing issues. I did read an uncorrected proof provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley, so I suppose there's time for changes (fingers crossed?).
    more
  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    Living inside the head of a 72-year-old isolated woman whose mind is rapidly deteriorating can be decidedly claustrophobic – especially when that woman has endured a lifetime of boredom, a condescending husband, and a self-imposed isolation. How well you relate to this concept will determine how satisfied you ultimately are with Ottessa Moshfegh’s latest book.Consider this: you are walking through the woods with your dog Charlie and you come across a note that says, “Her name was Magda. Nobody w Living inside the head of a 72-year-old isolated woman whose mind is rapidly deteriorating can be decidedly claustrophobic – especially when that woman has endured a lifetime of boredom, a condescending husband, and a self-imposed isolation. How well you relate to this concept will determine how satisfied you ultimately are with Ottessa Moshfegh’s latest book.Consider this: you are walking through the woods with your dog Charlie and you come across a note that says, “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 and no evidence that a body ever rested there.Many might think of it as a practical joke. But our first-person narrator, Vesta Gul, becomes increasingly obsessed, first fleshing out characters and spinning a story of what likely happened and then blurring the line between her real and imagined realities. Before long, Vesta Gul is almost entirely immersed in her imagined reality and her need to bring justice to Magda. Her mind free-associates to her deceased and belittling husband, her own dashed dreams, and the gap and confusion between “having a future at all and having the future one wants.”It’s a compelling concept but for this reader, there was something static in its presentation. Insights and perceptions are interrupted by long passages of ancillary back-up description that stalled the forward propulsion. As Vesta Gul’s mind becomes increasingly unreliable – as we try to determine whether the end explanation will be menacing or innocent – I found myself yearning for a more substantial reason to care. Since reading is subjective, others may, indeed, find that reason. Sincere thanks to Penguin Press for an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • Liz Barnsley
    January 1, 1970
    I don't think I've ever read a book as melancholic as this one, it is beautifully written with a low level sadness seeped into the narrative.Vesta is old, with only a dog for company. She finds a strange note in the woods one day and builds a whole story around it whilst going about her lonely day to day life...I'm honestly not sure what the author is trying to get over here- the way our inner monologue tells the tale of our personality maybe- but this is a slippery, hard to grasp presentation o I don't think I've ever read a book as melancholic as this one, it is beautifully written with a low level sadness seeped into the narrative.Vesta is old, with only a dog for company. She finds a strange note in the woods one day and builds a whole story around it whilst going about her lonely day to day life...I'm honestly not sure what the author is trying to get over here- the way our inner monologue tells the tale of our personality maybe- but this is a slippery, hard to grasp presentation of a character drama in a lot of ways. It is, for all that, strangely compelling and not a little addictive, I read it in one sitting, it is short and easily flowing.The ending let it down for me really - there's a shockingly horrific moment that quietly comes out of nowhere- and I'm not really sure what the point of that was. I had a momentary disappointment that after all of the rest the author went for shock value when to get to where the character needed to be there was no need for it. A shame because otherwise this would have been an easy 5* for me given the obvious talent behind the scenes.I'd still recommend it but be ready for a little upset at the end.
    more
Write a review