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Book Review: ‘Death in Her Hands’ by Ottessa Moshfegh

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh book review

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh | The Wright State Guardian

Ottessa Moshfegh is an impressive American author known for her works such as ‘My Year of Rest and Relaxation’ and ‘Eileen.’ Her latest release, ‘Death in Her Hands’ touches on loss, acceptance and trauma. What is framed to be a murder mystery dives deeper into the psychological world of an aging woman’s regrets. When a seventy-two-year-old woman, Vesta, stumbles upon a mysterious note in the woods that speaks of a murder she sets out on a journey of self-discovery.

Diving into the book

Moshfegh is known for her characters’ detailed and expressive trains of thought and this novel makes no exception. For the first 144 pages the reader is simply following Vesta around in her own wild yet specific mind. The story starts to unravel when Vesta eventually decides to take risks and find courage in her journey. 

The story also focuses on Vesta’s emotional loss of her husband, Walter, and how their relationship has highly impacted how she thinks, acts and lives. As the narrative unfolds, the reader starts to unpack Vesta’s inner monologue and begins to question reality and perception. 

The book is filled with visual imagery and precise settings. Vesta’s small cabin in the woods feels like a perfect setting for mystery to take place. Through Moshfegh’s narrative, the reader is transported to this small town of quiet and judgmental people. The most interesting thing about this novel could be its main character. The novel achieves a coming of age or self-redemption genre for that of an elderly woman. 

Takeaways from the story

What makes the story so mysterious and ambiguous is Moshfegh’s choice to have the reader only see things from Vesta’s point of view. The development of the story not only shows the layers in Vesta but also the fear involved in growing older and wasting life. 

Reality and illusion combine beautifully in this novel to create a story of substance and soul. Having a single main character allows the reader to delve into her thoughts, processes and mistakes. This layout promotes self-growth and introspection. 

This book is the ideal read for anyone wanting to step into another person’s shoes and get lost in their struggles. The overall journey and power resulting from this novel forms an inspiring message that life belongs to each individual and that everyone needs to heal.