Ottessa Moshfegh’s collection of short stories, Homesick For Another World, presents a series of people who are each alienated and disconnected in their own ways. Each of them are desperate for some kind of connection with the world or with another person. The ways they go about forging these connections, however, are weird and damaging and dark.
Only one word comes to mind at first: Grim. Grim grim grim. After that comes bleak, I guess. But there’s also dark humor and a sense of compassion. The weird, unfulfilled, and misguided characters in these stories aren’t being mocked or gawked at. Instead, they’re simply presented with all their flaws and desires, with a concise style.
Moshfegh has a real talent for delving into the darkness and coming up with something human. These stories aren’t always easy to read, but they’re compelling in their strangeness and in their insight. Each one has an ending or an image or an idea that will sit with you for days.
I loved Moshfegh’s novel Eileen, and you can read my post about it here. What I said about that book applies to this collection, too: “This is a stark, bleak, sometimes ugly book, but it’s also compulsively readable and deeply affecting.”
2015 was a tough reading year for me, in terms of favorite books. In years past I’ve always had a few stand-outs, books I loved and devoured and then went off in search of more like them. This year, not so much.
The sole honor in that category goes to Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, which I discovered and adored this past year. French rekindled my love of Crime fiction, and I’ve been gravitating more and more toward that genre after spending quite a long time in Horror and Thriller/Suspense. So the first in the series, In The Woods, is at the tip-top of my favorite reads list.
This past year has been tough in terms of getting out of my reading comfort zone as well. Thanks to the lovely nonfiction reading group I belong to, I’ve been guaranteed to read at least one nonfiction title a month for the past year and a half. I’m still really slow about it, though. For some reason I never tear through nonfiction as I do a novel, despite the fact that we’ve read some great ones in that group. You can check out our reading list here. Though I loved them all, I starred my particular favorites.
All that said, here’s the pretty short list of my faves from 2015. These aren’t necessarily books published in the past year, just ones I read. Clicking on the title will take you to the blog post I wrote about the book. Enjoy!
Marie’s Favorite Books of 2015
Tune in next time for the post where I’ll admit defeat on the Reading Challenge. Happy reading!
What’s on your must-read list every holiday season?
While I enjoy Dickens and O. Henry as much as the next person, my personal Christmas favorites are The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore and Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. I’ve talked about both on the blog in years past. You can find the posts here and here.
This year, I found a surprising Christmas read in Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh, one of my favorite books of the year. It’s set during the lead-up to Christmas. And it’s a dark one. I wrote about it for a Halloween post, here.
One I’m planning to re-read this year is the adorable How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas by Jeff Guinn (also author of the equally sweet and charming The Autobiography of Santa Claus). It’s been years since I read either one, and I think dear old Mrs. Claus is due for a re-visit. I particularly enjoy this one because it’s set in England in 1647, when the Puritans have taken control of Parliament and pass a law that will punish anyone who celebrates Christmas. I recall this as a great blend of historical fiction and Christmas coziness.
Happy holidays! I hope you all get lovely books to read this season!
Sometimes Horror just isn’t what you want. Sometimes you just want dark and unsettling, without jump scares or guts or monsters. Ottessa Moshfegh’s latest, Eileen, might just fit the bill for you this Halloween.
Eileen is the story of a young woman who works in the office of a boys’ prison in the early 1960’s. It’s the week before Christmas in a tiny New England town, and by the time the holiday rolls around Eileen will have disappeared. She’s narrating from a point in the future, where she’s changed her name and taken on a new persona. But clearly the past is still very much with her.
Eileen is distinctly unlikeable, but she’s such a well-developed character with such a distinct voice, filled with so much violence and desperation, that she’s compelling anyway. This is a stark, bleak, sometimes ugly book, but it’s also compulsively readable and deeply affecting. You can perhaps find a bit of pity for Eileen, trapped by her time and place and position.
The whole world of the story is dark and cold, the pre-Christmas New England snows a perfect backdrop. The one bright spot that appears is when Eileen has the opportunity to make a friend in the new prison psychologist, Rebecca. It could be the break she’s been waiting for. But you quickly learn that in this book, the world’s not that kind.
If you’ve watched the brilliant television series American Horror Story (currently in its fifth year), you’ll know what I mean when I say that, in terms of oppressive atmosphere, compelling but deeply flawed characters, this book reminded me of “Asylum,” the anthology’s second setting/story arc. Eileen in my imagination had the same color palette, the same dingy surroundings, the same dark shadows. What’s lurking in the dark may not be the same, but the set-pieces sure felt similar.
This also counts as 26 Books to Read in 2015: #6! an author I’ve never read before.