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.