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Death in Her Hands
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Death in Her Hands

A Novel

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.


Bookseller Recommendation

Death in Her Hands

“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 image Chris Lee, Boswell Book Company

Description

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2020 by: The Washington Post, Vogue, Marie Claire, Entertainment Weekly, The Millions, New York Magazine, Paste Magazine, LitHub, E! News Online, and many more.

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.

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Testimonials


“[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 . . . Death in Her Hands is the work of a writer who is, like Henry James or Vladimir Nabokov, touched by both genius and cruelty. Cruelty, so deplorable in life, is for novelists a seriously underrated virtue. Like a surgeon, or a serial killer, Moshfegh flenses her characters, and her readers, until all that’s left is a void. It’s the amused contemplation of that void that gives rise to the dark exhilaration of her work—its wayward beauty, its comedy, and its horror.”

Kevin Power, The New Yorker

“A recent profile of Moshfegh in this newspaper suggested that her stories of detachment are perfectly suited to this moment of global isolation. But her goal isn’t to lull us to sleep; it’s to wake us up. Why aren’t we paying attention? What are we missing? Isn’t it time for us to start seeing the world as it really is?”

Ruth Franklin, The New York Times Book Review

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About the author


Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England. Her first book, McGlue, a novella, won the Fence Modern Prize in Prose and the Believer Book Award. She is also the author of the short story collection Homesick for Another World. Her stories have been published in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, and Granta, and have earned her a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award, the Plimpton Discovery Prize, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Eileen, her first novel, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction; My Year of Rest and Relaxation, her second novel, was a New York Times bestseller.


Reviews

“When it comes to evoking the jagged edge of contemporary anxiety there might not be a more insightful writer working today than Moshfegh. That is, if the boundless dark potential of the human psyche is your thing. If it’s not, this atmospheric, darkly comic tale of a pathologically lonely widow and the thrills lurking in her sylvan retreat might not be for you. But, sophisticated reader that you are, you’re not afraid of the dark. Right?”

The Millions

“It all starts with a note that reads, ‘Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.’ An elderly widow finds it in the woods and her horror and curiosity soon turns into an obsession. But just as her investigation begins to take shape, we begin to doubt our narrator’s grip on reality. This is part crime thriller, part dark comedy, and totally delightful.”

Good Housekeeping

“Literature’s reigning queen of the profane, Ottessa Moshfegh is divisive: Readers tend to love her or hate her. If her latest novel is subtler than her most recent works, it’s just as chilling — it could be a jumping-off point for new readers. A self-contained horror story that takes place inside the mind of an alluringly unreliable narrator, the novel follows a 72-year-old widow who has moved with her dog to a large plot of land where they are seemingly at one with nature. When she finds a handwritten note that implies a murder has taken place on her property, she works to solve it as best she can. The narrator’s dark fantasies and less-than-pure thoughts work especially well if you think of Death in Her Hands as a sequel to Moshfegh’s deliciously gross and grotesque debut novel, Eileen.

Vulture

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