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Death in Her Hands

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  217 ratings  ·  74 reviews
A novel of haunting metaphysical suspense about an elderly widow whose life is upturned when she finds a cryptic note on a walk in the woods that ultimately makes her question everything about her new home.

While on her normal daily walk with her dog in the forest woods, our protagonist comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with a frame of
Hardcover, 272 pages
Expected publication: April 21st 2020 by Penguin Press
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Average rating 3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  217 ratings  ·  74 reviews

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Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
I have to be honest here and admit that I just didn't get this book. Ottessa Moshfegh is so insanely talented as a writer but this book was utterly pointless.

We have a 72 year old woman (a widow) that lives in almost complete solitude with her dog, Charlie, in a cabin on a lake. While out walking she finds a note:

"Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body."

However, there is no body and Vesta becomes completely obsessed in solving the mystery
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, 2019-read
Ottessa Moshfegh has written a twisted, genre-bending detective story: Her protagonist Vesta Gul is a 72-year-old widow who lives in a remote former girl scout camp with her dog Charlie. But mind you, Vesta is no Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher; rather, it becomes very clear early on that there is something psychologically wrong with this lonely female narrator who tells us that she found a mysterious slip of paper in the woods with the words scribbled on it: "Here name was Magda. Nobody will ...more
Read By RodKelly
Oh, the terrible wonders of the mind...

Death in Her Hands is a dark & layered novel that lulls the reader into the crumbling psyche of an incredibly lonely & depressed protagonist, desperately trying to free her mind & expunge the painful memories that she tries to bury within a labyrinth of half-truths & alternate history. She is a woman powerless over her mind yet dependent on it to conjure a reality she can believe in; that she can survive in. At length, she reflects on a life
Jillian Doherty
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was elated to discover we have a new Ottessa novel coming this spring!!

I may have an author crush on her - I'd read a grocery store list if she wrote it ;)

I feel like most of her stories have an essence of other authors...
Eileen was very Shirley Jackson
Rest and Relaxation was Chuck Palahniuk
Death in Her Hands is a combo of Olga Tokarczuk's Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, and the inventive story telling that hearkened from Girl on the Train!

I could have read another 100 pages if

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early e-copy of Death in Her Hands, the newest release of one of my favorite authors - Ottessa Moshfegh.

"Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body."

This is the note the main character, Vesta, a 72-years-old woman, finds one day while she's out in the woods walking her dog.
This is the start of one the best/worst mind trips I've ever had the pleasure to read.

This book took me back to the time I read
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ottessa Moshfegh spins out an intricate, layered character study in Death in Her Hands. Vesta is far from a reliable narrator, so her inner monologue of finding a clue to what she believes may be a murder is fraught with conflict, obsfucation, both vague and crystal clear interpretations of data, and the kind of scattered thinking that might indicate dementia. Determined to figure out the murder, Vesta doggedly pursues the cold trail, but comes up with more questions than answers. Moshfegh is a ...more
Nov 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
A meandering, inane plot that goes nowhere, a pet murder, and one of the most unlikable protagonists I’ve ever encountered.

Moshfegh writes SO beautifully that is seems like it should be impossible for any of her work to have such poor results, yet here we are.

I loved My Year of Rest and Relaxation. It made me think Moshfegh could do no wrong. Then I read MGlue and wasn’t thrilled with it. I was hoping that this book would be more on par with Rest and Relaxation, but instead found it to be the
Mark Mazzuca
Nov 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Look, I hate to say this but you spend a ton of time in her mind in very long paragraphs about varying topics. This is usually Ottessa’s strong point but not as sharp as previous books, and I didn’t feel the plot was moving in a satisfying way. I didn’t particularly care about anyone in the book or find them compelling. She is still one of the best authors breathing and I will fight everyone on Good Reads who disagrees but the earlier books landed much better for me.
Tyler Goodson
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
At first, it seems to be about the act of imagining and writing a story. The novel keeps reminding you that the “story” and “characters” in it are creations of Vesta, who is herself a creation. It gets scary when the things you thought Vesta was making up turn out to be real. This is a fascinating, and eerie exercise in novel writing, and reminded me of The Keep by Jennifer Egan, another darkly bonkers experiment in storytelling.
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dark and twisted. A woman come undone in the wilderness. Haunted by many ghosts. Pursued by a mystery. The mind is a terrible wonderful thing and Moshfegh knows it very well.
Chris Haak
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
A bit of a slow start, but a brilliant second half (though the ending almost had me in tears...). Moshfegh is a great & original writer and just never lets me down!
Thank you Random House US and Edelweiss for the ARC.
Jessica Klahr
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
When I saw that there was a new Ottessa book on the horizon I knew there was no way I was going to be able to wait until APRIL to read it so thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin Press for making an e-ARC of this one available to me. The best way I can think of to describe this book is a character study on steroids. If one were to track the action in this book, it would take up maybe five bullet points. What we get instead is the entire universe of the story seen through and because of the eyes of ...more
Jessica Sullivan
I love Ottessa Moshfegh, and I love the premise of this novel, but it really wasn’t for me.

Vesta is an old widow living by herself in a rural cabin with her dog, Charlie. Her husband, Walter, died recently and now she is all alone. While walking in the woods one day, she finds a cryptic note stating that Magda is dead, and becomes obsessed with it. She doesn’t know who Magda is, so she makes up a story about her as she attempts to solve her mystery. Lines between delusion and reality blur, and
Uriel Perez
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body."

This note plunges the elderly Vesta, a woman living at civilization's edge, on a madcap search for Magda's killer. Undaunted by the visible lack of evidence, Vesta's search takes her to the end of her sanity, forcing her to confront repressed demons and the memories of her now-deceased husband, as well as a bevy of shadowy figures out to foil her plans. With clues and evil-doers at every turn, the
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
3.5 stars

Death in Her Hands is my first Moshfegh novel and it did not disappoint!

"It would be a very strange thing to see, some old woman in her dusty coat grasping Death in her hands and whistling into the forest."

72-year-old Vesta is walking through the woods with her dog when she finds a very matter-of-fact note on the ground:

"Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body."

Yet there is no body to be discovered in the forest. The lonely widow
Nicole D.
First, if you have interest in this book don't read other people's reviews. (mine's safe.) I scanned them and saw something which colored my reading of this book and I'm not even sure the person was correct. I'm not even sure what happened myself.

Moshfegh is pretty remarkable. I don't know if anything will ever compare to the brilliance of My Year of Rest and Relaxation for me, but this was definitely Moshfegh. (Dark, funny, character driven, stuff I couldn't even possibly think of.) A
Kyle Schnitzer
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Pickle Farmer
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this a lot. Really interesting take on murder mystery - crime story - genre fiction. The first half is basically all interiority, no dialogue or interactions with other characters. So quite admirable. Themes include the mind, invention, projection, disgust. How much of the world is what we project upon it? Do we create our own realities? (I.e. “I’m a procrastinator, I’m lazy, I’m anxious, no one likes me,” etc.) lots of interesting quotes I’ll maybe type up later. Major admiration and ...more
Sarah Stone
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Death in Her Hands
By Ottessa Moshfegh


Synopsis: Vesta Gool lives a normal retired daily life until she finds a note on her morning walk with her dog. “Her name was Magda.” Concern rushes through Vesta as the contents of the note begins to swirl uncontrollably in her mind. She begins to devote every waking hour into solving what happened to Magda, how the note got there, and who committed the crime. Throughout the books entirety I was very concerned for Vesta’s mental health and wellbeing.
Sep 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I struggled to rate this book because there are things such as the writing style that are first rate but the story itself was hard for me to get into. I was able to finish this book in a day because Moshfegh's writing is just beautiful. I couldn't put the book down. So while the writing was engaging, the story itself didn't hold me. However I did find it to be a great character study and a really interesting look inside the mind of someone who is slowly maddening herself over an event that she ...more
Kevin Chambers
Nov 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
I won an advanced copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway and I wish I hadn’t. The book synopsis makes this book sound like an intersecting murder mystery, but instead it was a mystery why anyone would like this book. From the pointless and random ramblings to the missing plot, there was nothing here that I enjoyed. I only finished the book so that I could feel ok leaving a 1 star review.
Matt Shaqfan
Sep 19, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed DiHH, but there were times where I wondered where, if anywhere, the story was going. In the end, Ottessa wrapped it all up in a tight little package. She's so good. Nothing ever mind-blowing, just quietly original and controlled in perfectly strange ways.
Michael Jantz
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Masterful. She reels you in with the banalities of mystery but the thrill is in the surprise immersion into her narrator’s psyche. An interior novel, full of confusion and unreality. Crudely funny at the same time.
Angella d'Avignon
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
blew my mind,
twisted and boring
i am obsessed
Jan 27, 2020 rated it liked it
I read My Year of Rest and Relaxation back when it was released in 2018, and hugely enjoyed Ottessa Moshfegh's literary yet darkly comedic style. When I saw she had a new book, I jumped at the chance to read it.

The good:
Moshfegh has an immensely readable prose, and since the novel is the narrator's stream-of-consciousness thoughts, it has a really nice flow. There are also some great unsettling moments, as you dig further and further into Vesta's psyche--and slowly start to realize how past
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Without wanting to accuse Moshfegh of anything (nothing, surely, could be further from her mind) the premise of her masterful new novel is very similar to Olga Tokarczuk's "Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead." Both feature excentric older women who live more or less isolated in the countryside, where they try to solve a murder that might be imaginary, while Blake's poetry provides clues. As I loved Tokarczuk's novel, this only made me more eager to read Moshfegh's novel.

Despite these
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
•Vesta is a 70-something widow living alone in a lakeside cottage after her husband passes away from cancer. Being alone with not much human interaction, Vesta is left in her thoughts a lot. After finding this note on the forest floor, Vesta obsessively tries to figure out who Magda was and who would leave such a note there in the first place. You kind of go into this journey with Vesta as she deduces clues from apparitions and happenstance. The product of such thoughts lead Vesta down a path ...more
Bert Z
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loneliness. Depression. Insanity. Sadness. Is there any author that writes about these subjects better than Ottessa Moshfegh? I think not!

Here we have another masterpiece from an author that seems incapable of writing a bad book, she somehow just seems to keep getting better and better with each new work. She knocked it out of the park with her debut ‘Elieen’, progressed into brilliance even more with ‘My Year of Rest & Relaxation’ and now has gifted us with another beauty of a novel, which
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Rounding up a 3.5. I was really looking forward to reading this book and was very excited to have won a copy from a giveaway. I enjoyed the story and the suspense created in Vesta’s head as her mind continues wonder and build up the story. I probably set too high of expectations going into it and ended up being a little disappointed as I did not feel the same emotional reaction and connection as I’ve had with some of her other books. I love Ottessa Moshfegh’s writing and will continue to follow ...more
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
For fans of My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier and fans of more psychological thrillers, this book delivers a suspenseful atmosphere built by the unraveling of the protagonist’s mind. I’m not a fan of Moshfegh’s other work, but I felt her depiction of the inner workings of an elderly woman were astute and the development of the story was controlled. This was why I eased into the book and stayed, but I can see how fans of Moshfegh’s other work will appreciate the grit and her generally ...more
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Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England. Her first book, McGlue, a novella, won the Fence Modern Prize in Prose and the Believer Book Award. She is also the author of the short story collection Homesick for Another World. Her stories have been published in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, and Granta, and have earned her a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award, the Plimpton Discovery ...more