4 out of 5 stars (3.75 if I could be picky)
Jen Beagin’s funny, moving, fearless debut novel introduces an unforgettable character, Mona—almost 24, cleaning houses to get by, emotionally adrift. Handing out clean needles to drug addicts, she falls for a recipient who proceeds to break her heart in unimaginable ways. She decamps to Taos, New Mexico, for a fresh start, where she finds a community of seekers and cast-offs. But they all 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. Always just under the surface are her memories of growing up in a chaotic, destructive family from which she’s trying to disentangle herself. The story of her journey toward a comfortable place in the world and a measure of self-acceptance is psychologically acute, often surprising, and entirely human.
This book was on a whole other level- it was like nothing I have ever read before. Hilarious, real and inspiring, it tells the story of Mona – a woman who has been through her fair share of tough times, and yet is still persevering. I loved how real this book felt, it accepted all of Mona’s quirks, and kept her a real ‘hot mess’ that I, and i’m sure many other readers, can entirely relate to. She stumbles through life with no real direction and meets an odd assortment of people along the way. Her story focuses on her relationship with four characters: Mr disgusting, a junkie she dates and then moves away from; her neighbours, the eccentric hippies Nigel and Shiori who she nicknames ‘Yoko and Yoko’; her employer Henry who is shrouded with mystery; and lastly another employer of her’s, Betty, a slightly psychotic psychic. It’s hard to describe this book without giving too much away, but it’s definitely a story of overcoming hardships and remaining stable in the face of it all. Read this book if you want a slow but humorous look at the lives of others, however it’s probably not for readers who favour plot over character- not a lot actually happens, however I found this quite refreshing after reading a series of books which were all focused around a complex plot. The only thing I did not like about ‘Pretend I’m Dead’ is that at times it can feel quite disjointed, and it ends quite abruptly leaving me wanting more of Mona’s tales!