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Pretend I'm Dead

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  2,513 ratings  ·  376 reviews
Miranda July meets Mary Karr in this brilliant debut novel from Jen Beagin, Whiting Award winner and “one of the freshest voices I've read in years—funny, wise, whip-smart and compassionate” (Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins), about a cleaning lady on a quest for self-acceptance after her relationship with a loveable junkie goes awry.

Jen Beagin’s quirky, moving,
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 15th 2018 by Scribner (first published October 1st 2015)
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Kassie Theresa To me, anyone narrating the world from their perspective is at least somewhat unreliable, because people can't be truly objective. I feel like she's…moreTo me, anyone narrating the world from their perspective is at least somewhat unreliable, because people can't be truly objective. I feel like she's not unreliable because of her mental health issues as much as she's unreliable because she's human, therefore she sees things a certain way because of her personality/experiences/etc..(less)

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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  2,513 ratings  ·  376 reviews

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Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

Overdue book review #437. I read this IN JUNE. I suck so hard at posting shit this year. Good news is I kind of remember this one – better news is it kind of meanders a little bit of everywhere so there’s no reason to get wrapped up in the details. Basically, if your idea of a good time is reading about a 20-something housekeeper (with a side hobby of taking bizarro selfies in her employers’ homes) who volunteers at the local methadone
Diane S ☔
I think I've dnf'd more books in the last month than I have in the last year. Started out promising, very different, quirky main character who volunteers with a needle exchange program. She falls for one of the users that she calls Me. Disgusting, who ends up breaking her heart. She goes to Taos, which was a big draw for me, in an attempt to reclaim her life. She shares a house with two strange characters Yoko and Yoko and we'll this is where it lost me. Half way no less. It turns a bit crude, ...more
Jason Pettus

(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Any book that starts with a young volunteer at a needle exchange developing a crush on one of her junkie clients, deducing from his refusal of sterilizing equipment that he's not sharing his needles and is therefore single and eligible, is definitely a book for me; and that's merely page 1 of Jen Beagin's
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a strange sort of attraction at first sight (the title alone is so intriguing) negotiated down by reluctance to engage with a 24 year old protagonist. Yes, I know, I’m an ageist, but can you blame me? This generation has been just all sorts of unattractive. Although I’m very glad to have finally decided to follow my initial instinct and check this book out, because a. it’s pretty terrific and b. it’s set judging by cultural clues in the mid 90s, entirely different, far more tolerable ...more
I read the first 65 pages, which was one long chapter (almost like a standalone novella) called “Hole.” Mona, a 23-year-old art school dropout turned cleaner, was raised by a cousin after her addict parents’ death. Like Beagin, who cleaned houses for five years to support her art, Mona collects vacuum cleaners and considers vacuuming her primary hobby. She enjoys the repetition and inadvertent intimacy of her job – it gives her glimpses into other people’s inner lives. In her spare time she ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: available
Mona, the main character, is not a well grounded person, but she is a quick witted kind of funny and a truthful and principled observer of her world. I think Beagin is a talented author, and I found this book uniquely and decidedly enjoyable.
I went with 5*s because the story was so well written(especially when compared to others I've read lately), I loved the cover and title, and as Kelly(and the Book Boar) mentioned in her review-"Originality is something that has become almost extinct,
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book ended like a French movie. 4.5 stars.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pretend I’m Dead is a really unusual, psychedelic gem of a novel. Mona is a twenty-something volunteer in a needle exchange programme. Her dad, Mickey, is a deadbeat and the only stability she has in her life is the sole-trader house cleaner she works for. Mona has a brain but no particular drive. She works hard, but without direction. When she tells people she is a cleaner, they assume she must have something else she is working towards - white girls don’t clean houses.

The novel follows Mona
Jenny Dunning
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even as a kid, I didn’t read favorite books over. Or watch favorite movies again. But I just finished rereading Jen Beagin’s debut novel Pretend I’m Dead a few weeks after reading it for the first time. I’d been recommending it to my book group—and couldn’t call up enough details to be convincing. So I started over. And two days later, well, it was just as satisfying a read as the first time through.
Driveway moments, or their reading analogue. That’s another measure of how good a book is. For
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
God, I loved this book. The narrator's voice is so compelling. (So much so that I just had to go back and check that it was in fact in the third person, not the first person). And hilarious--I genuinely burst out laughing at several points. Everything about Mona feels real and immediate and believable. And it's not just her -- the characters she interacts with feel real, too. Sometimes in a book like this, with a main character like this, the main character is the only one who seems to "get ...more
Jaclyn Crupi
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not at all what I was expecting, this was funny and dark in a Miranda July/Ottessa Moshfegh kind of way. I was unsure about it at first but the voice won me over completely.
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lucid and smart, without a hint of self-consciousness. Induced laughter, tears, and a few PTSD panic attacks. Well worth the heart palpitations, though. I wish I'd written it.
Abbie | ab_reads
May 30, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars - strange, quirky, funny, off-beat, dark
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I'm at a loss as to how to best describe what I just read, but if you like snarky black sheep characters, cynicism, and the writing of Alexandra Kleeman- this is for you. I couldn't help but toss my head back and laugh at the absurdity. Mona is a 24-year-old cleaning lady and an artist. She sometimes calls her somewhat estranged father for random conversations despite her complicated history with the one-armed man who handed off to another family member when she became too difficult and her mom ...more
Gianna Mosser
Sep 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Disclaimer: NUP book! This author is daring and brutally honest. Though her narrative became painfully personal and self-deprecating, I thought the strength of the ending gave the reader some hope that Mona might yet come out the other side.
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.

To my knowledge “hot mess fiction” – or, better still, “trainwreck fiction” – isn’t a known sub-genre, though perhaps it should be. Thus, I am using this forum to introduce it to the world… or the handful of you who read my reviews. You can thank me later as I am all but certain you’ll enjoy it as much as I do. Well, almost as much.

After all, who doesn’t find another’s spectacularly chaotic way of being entirely engrossing? We’re fascinated by other peoples’ disorder, as though
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-18
A lot of my dissatisfaction with this book is the disconnect between how it's being sold - a quirky tale of new beginnings - and what it is - a dark look at the scars of childhood abuse. Most of the time, I'd just shrug off the marketing and try to judge a book on its own merits, but this time I ended up with the opposite of what I wanted, so fair warning here not to trust the cover copy.

Pretend I'm Dead is dark, episodic, and shallow. Beagin has a vivid, visual style and the voice is spot-on
Laura Santoski
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow. I did not see the end of this book coming - as in, literally didn’t realize the book was about to end. It’s definitely the kind of book where nothing much happens, but the character is interesting and quirky enough that you’re fine with being along for the ride. It’s crass and strange and unpredictable, and I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but if weird meandering books are your thing, I liked this one.
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, 2018, fiction
Wow, this was different! I've not read anything quite like it before or at least in a while. I'm not sure really how to write the review, the protagonist, Mona kept me on my toes that's for sure.
Mona seems to be a tortured soul who is a cleaning lady by choice, she takes great pride in her work. She goes from volunteering in Lowell, MA by handing out clean needles to addicts one evening a week to ending up in Taos, New Mexico starting her own cleaning service.
I have to admit this is was a fast
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes you meet a character and slowly come to realize she could be the personification of a strange little part of yourself, one that you never even paid much attention to or maybe weren’t even aware of. Mona grew on me like this. Initially, like most people she meets, I thought she was a terrible mess. She desultorily attends college, majoring in Art while realizing that the whole enterprise isn’t going to get her anywhere. She has mental health issues but doesn’t consistently take her ...more
Sara Oxton
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Pretend I’m dead by Jen Beagin a four-star read that will leave you thinking. This was not what I expected, I picked it up thinking it looked different and I was just in the mood for a palate cleanser and wow this really did cleanse the palate. I’ve seen this described as Frank and unflinching and it is in places. It’s also darkly comedic and filled with characters that you may not always like but you will always be behind and wanting to read the next line, page or chapter to find out what they ...more
Hizatul Akmah
actual rating: 2.4/5

triggers warning: incest, child molestation, erotica, suicide, drugs abuse

You weren't really living. You were just coasting along like a zombie.

i had pretty high expectation for this book but i guess it was my own fault after all. it wasn't necessarily, poorly-written but the thing about fiction is you need the readers to imagine the things you put into words as you hope they would.

the plot was okay but pretty slow-paced. i didn't care about any of the characters even
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great way to kick off 2016! I loved the main character, I loved everyone she interacted with, I loved this book.
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quirky and accomplished first novel... more of a 4.5, but not quite a 5 star. Lead character Mona is a one-of-a-kind heroine, and her exploits make for breezy and fun reading.
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grown-up-books
By the end of this story, I was totally smitten by the main character and wanted to know more of her story. There are aspects of her life and choices that are brutal, dark and frustrating to read but there is also a humor and a totally different way of looking at life that’s peculiar and fascinating. My compassion for her and those in similar circumstances to hers grew as I read on. At times I wanted to give up on it but I’m glad I didn’t.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don’t know why I was expecting so much from this book and I think I’m going to blame it on the person who said this book is ‘Eleanor Oliphant on acid‘. The truth is: no one is like my Eleanor Oliphant and I really should stop trusting people who compare characters to other characters. You don’t go around saying ‘My friend is like my other friend on acid.’ But I’m also going to blame myself for trusting other people’s comparisons.

Pretend I’m Dead is nothing like Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely
Sonia Reppe
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
24-yr old Mona is the anti-heroine of this off-beat slacker novel that explores daddy issues. Is she an unlikable protagonist? She appears to be a drifter, unambitious, working as a cleaning lady, no family except for an unstable, absent father. She has a short-lived relationship with a drug addict. He leaves her a note: "I can easily picture you living in Taos [New Mexico]. Why not move there and start over. Rent an adobe casita. Paint some pictures. Join a healthy cult of some kind. Get a ...more
Sara Wingfield
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine on acid. Odd, funny, and doesn't go on longer than it needs to - a bit like my review. Just excellent!

Many thanks to Jen Beagin, Oneworld and Netgalley for the marvellous ARC
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: emilybooks, fiction
This book is hilarious!! My first #emilybooks read. Great female protagonist. I didn't exactly laugh-out-loud while reading, but I was definitely laughing very hard on the inside on every other page. Highly recommended. Plus: it's short!!
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
read an ARC of the new Scribner edition coming May 2018 - dark, hilarious, spellbinding. Mona and her hero's journey won me over immediately and never let me down. I'll say more later.
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Jen Beagin holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, and is a recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award in fiction. She is the author of Pretend I'm Dead and Vacuum in the Dark. A former cleaning lady, she lives in Hudson, New York.
“She smiled. It was rare for her to find someone attractive physically and also to like what came out of their mouth.” 1 likes
“You respect me?" Sheila asked, surprised. "As a person?"
"No, as a pigeon.”
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