Review: Ottessa Moshfegh (Homesick for Another World and Eileen)
If you want to look beyond carefully censored stories that operate within the bounds of social niceties, then Ottessa Moshfegh’s writing is for you. Unapologetically raw, honest, and maybe, just maybe, too familiar despite (or because of) the dysfunctions of her characters.
Starting with Eileen, her novel published back in 2015, winning the Hemingway Foundation/PEN award and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, there is no denying that there is a spark of brilliance within the gritty and gruesome mind of our titular character. We are brought into her mundane and almost mechanical way of living, the battles with her alcoholic father, and her wish of wanting to disappear from all of her current circumstances. Of course, we know Eileen pushes through these circumstances because she provides insight into events as they unfold and assures the reader she is happier now. We read in disbelief, trying to find the connection between the stiff, quirkier younger self and the confident and content older Eileen. How are they the same person? Of course, the journey to answer this question is part of the heart of the novel.
Homesick For Another World is something else entirely. I can’t deny that every story is beautifully written with her raw and unflinchingly honest style—and each story their own, a great instance of human struggle, but there is something “off” about this collection. The collection tells the stories of individuals unhappy with their current circumstance (that in itself is of course the stuff of much literary fiction, but seems fresh and uncut in the hands of Moshfegh)—all failing and falling with only really themselves to blame. At first, I thought there may be a connection between the characters apart from their flaws, a possible clashing of horrible circumstances possibly providing a moment of relief for all involved, even if only briefly. Maybe the true purpose of this collection is to see just what type of person you are by following characters as they hit rock bottom with little to no hope for recovery. I am obviously too optimistic for a work such as this. I wanted a “happy ending,” so to speak to contrast the starkness of the narratives. The UFO on the cover made me believe anything was possible, that hope and redemption was possible. I guess I just didn’t take into consideration that the bad circumstances, that destruction without redemption are also always a possibility. Perhaps this is a lesson that we should all heed as well.
Read sample work here
Buy her books here
Reviewed by Maddie Thies