Book Review #28: Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh (2020)

Review: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: Death in Her Hands: A Novel
Author: Ottessa Moshfegh
Published: 2020 (Penguin Press, New York)
Pages: 259 (Hardcover)
Genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, Adult
*Disclaimer: Contains sexuality and strong language/themes, Recommended for 17+
Link Here

My borrowed copy of Death in Her Hands in my (her) hand

Hello! First of all, another thing you need to know about me is that I love Ottessa Moshfegh’s writing. I loved her writing before I started this blog. The first book I read by her was Eileen, and the story has haunted me ever since. This is my first review on the blog regarding a work by Moshfegh, and I cannot communicate how excited I am to be talking about her newest release. Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England who has written two novels, a novella and a book of short stories. She has been nominated for, and a winner of, literary awards and grants.

It’s very stressful to be plucked from one world and plunked down in another. One loses her roots, no matter how hard traditions are clung to. I’d seen it in my parents – traditions change. Food, holidays, modes of dresses. One assimilates, or forever lives as though in exile” – Ottessa Moshfegh, Death in Her Hands

Now, back to Death in Her Hands – a book with a literally haunting cover. I saw there were more negative reviews than I thought there would be. But I was not entirely surprised. Death in Her Hands is a novel narrated by an elderly woman named Vesta, who just lost her long-time husband Walter, and moves across the country to a small town and buys a cabin remote in the woods to start over. She lives alone, almost in complete isolation, with her dog, Charlie. Vesta lives for her routine until she comes across a mysterious note in the woods that says, Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body. This note begins a spiral and adventure for Vesta as she investigates this supposed murder, and tries to solve the mystery behind the note and its author.

There is nothing more heartbreaking than a squandered opportunity, a missed chance. I knew about stuff like that. I’d been young once. So many dreams had been dashed. But I dashed them myself. I wanted to be safe, whole, have a future of certainty. One makes mistakes when there is confusion between having a future at all and having the future one wants” – Ottessa Moshfegh, Death in Her Hands

This book left me asking a lot of questions and evaluating every hint, every word. Honestly, I loved it. Despite already being bias towards her writing, this novel was well-written, insightful, and penetrating. Moshfegh dives into Vesta’s inner most thoughts, and invades a vision of the comfortable American rural life. Vesta faces challenges, interruptions and recalls her days with Walter in her grief. This novel was also suspenseful, and the mystery kept me on my toes at every page. I can see how redundant and almost too confusingly ominous the novel could be, but I think it was the author’s intention to make the reader uncomfortable and keep them guessing about Vesta’s state of mind.

It was enough for me, I’d thought, but I didn’t know what I really deserved. I’d deserved what any nice young lady deserves” – Ottessa Moshfegh, Death in Her Hands

Why should you read this book? This novel is fascinating, personal and a captivating mystery and thriller. The concept was fairly original, or if anything, it was unusual and there are not many like this. Through Vesta, Moshfegh dives into feelings kept private in day-to-day life, such as feeling like an outcast, insecure, and being obsessed over coincidental details. Prepared to be challenged, and pay attention to the details if you, reader, dive into this book. This story is not for the faint of heart.

I give this book a 4 out of 5!


Click here to read about how I rate the books I write about on this blog!

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