Book Review: Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

4.5/5 Stars.

This is one of the rare cases where I prefer a writer’s short stories to her full-length novel. As much as I enjoyed Eileen (Moshfegh’s 2015 novel), I thought that the actual plot paled in comparison to her superb character development and grim, nasty prose.

Homesick for Another World gives Moshfegh the opportunity to make her characters the true focal point, without the expectation of a long, cohesive plot. It’s like reading about a dozen Eileens in small doses.

Moshfegh’s characters are isolated, lonely, perverted and grotesque. Physically, they’re sort of like those jarring hyperrealistic sculptures: her descriptions focus on their pus-filled blemishes, their greasy skin, their thinning hair. Underneath, they’re pitiable—often detestable—people with delusions of grandeur and unfulfilled desires.

Throughout, Moshfegh eschews sentimentality for grim realism and dark humor, but the key thing here is that she maintains compassion for her characters; as repulsive as they may be, we never lose sight of their humanity.

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Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

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3.5/5 Stars.

This is a grim, nasty little psychological thriller. The kind of book that makes you feel like you need to take a bath after reading it. Ottessa Moshfegh’s protagonist is a despicable, pitiful woman who suddenly finds herself in the middle of a shocking crime. While the plot felt a bit contrived at certain points, the novel was at its core a fascinating and complex character study from a talented debut novelist.