NAMED A BEST BOOK of the YEAR by O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE, REFINERY 29, and KIRKUS REVIEWS
SHORTLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE
A “wondrous,” (O, The Oprah Magazine) “scathingly funny” (Entertainment Weekly) debut from Whiting Award winner Jen Beagin about a cleaning lady named Mona and her quest for self-acceptance and belonging after her relationship with a loveable junkie goes awry.
Jen Beagin’s funny, moving, fearless debut novel introduces an unforgettable character, Mona—almost twenty-four, emotionally adrift, and cleaning houses to get by. Handing out clean needles to drug addicts, she falls for a recipient she calls Mr. Disgusting, who proceeds to break her heart in unimaginable ways.
Seeking a kind of healing, she decamps to Taos, New Mexico, for a fresh start, where she finds a community of seekers and cast-offs, all of whom have one or two things to teach her—the pajama-wearing, blissed-out New Agers, the slightly creepy client with peculiar tastes in controlled substances, the psychic who might really be psychic. But always lurking just beneath the surface are her memories of growing up in a chaotic, destructive family from which she’s trying to disentangle herself, and the larger legacy of the past she left behind.
The story of Mona’s quest for self-acceptance in this working class American world is at once hilarious and wonderfully strange, true to life and boldly human, and introduces a stunning, one-of-a-kind new voice in American fiction.
If Beagin's debut novel feels voyeuristic, it's due to its incisive realism and the protagonist's fascination with the people around her. Mona spends her 20s cleaning other people's houses and observing her clients intently. After a heartbreak involving an addict Mona calls Mr. Disgusting, she leaves Lowell, Mass., for Taos, N.M. The book comes alive in this new location, where Mona encounters New Age neighbors, a family that may be hiding something, and a cleavage-bearing, leopard print wearing psychic. As Mona gains insight into the lives of those around her, she comes closer to confronting her own traumas. Her quick wit (she tells people that oven cleaner is her poison of choice) and the surprising turns in the narrative (Mona's clients are always more complex than they initially seem) keep this journey of self-discovery from veering into clich . The result is a funny, touching look at loneliness and the search for belonging.
Witty, dark & full of humanity
This was a quick & enjoyable read. Though Mona is pretty deadpan-she is not one dimensional. I loved all the quirky characters even as I was suspecting them as creeps & derelicts. I’m looking forward to the next book!