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Pretend I'm Dead: A Novel (Paperback)

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Pretend I'm Dead: A Novel By Jen Beagin Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

Jen Beagins first, Whiting award-winning novel follows Mona on what amounts to a personal odyssey of self-discovery. Nearly 24 at the start, she's living in Massachusetts, dating "Mr. Disgusting," and cleaning houses for characters you have to believe are real, because who could make them up? Winds, fair and foul, take her to New Mexico, where she keeps cleaning, working to scrub that man right out of her grout. With the help of Terry Gross, Yoko & Yoko, big open skies, red dirt and the right kind of drugs, she's on her way. This is one of the truest and funniest coming-of-age novels I've ever read. I fell hard for Mona, and I hope you do, too.

— From Leigh



The “wondrous” (O, The Oprah Magazine), “scathingly funny” (Entertainment Weekly) debut from Whiting Award winner and author of Big Swiss Jen Beagin about a cleaning lady named Mona and her quest for self-acceptance.

Jen Beagin’s funny, moving, fearless debut novel introduces an unforgettable character, Mona—almost twenty-four, emotionally adrift, and cleaning houses to get by. She falls for a man she calls Mr. Disgusting, who proceeds to break her heart in unimaginable ways.

In search of healing, she decamps to Taos, New Mexico, for a fresh start, where she finds a community of cast-offs, all of whom have something 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.

The story of Mona’s quest for belonging in this 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.

About the Author

Jen Beagin holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, and is a recipient of a Whiting Award in fiction. Her first novel Pretend I’m Dead was shortlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and Vacuum in the Dark was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction. She is also the author of Big Swiss. She lives in Hudson, New York.

Praise For…

"Traces a cleaning woman’s journey to self-acceptance in alternately warm, sharp, and deeply wise fashion... Scathingly funny."  —Entertainment Weekly

"Rib-ticklingly funny-sad... Beagin works magic in the space between hilarity and heartbreak... Absurdly affecting." —O Magazine

“Like Denis Johnson, Jen Beagin is able to find humanity and wonder (and yes, love) in some of the most forlorn and hopeless corners of our world.” —Tom Perrotta, author of Mrs. Fletcher

"Rare is the encounter with such a frank and unflinching voice reporting from life on the edge, and rarer still the humor and compassion that Beagin manages to locate... This book invaded my dreams, took over my conversation, and otherwise seduced me totally." —Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End

"Jen Beagin has one of the freshest voices I've read in years—funny, wise, whip-smart and compassionate." —Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

"Sly, funny, compassionate... This is a terrific debut. Singularly enjoyable." —Kirkus (starred review)

"Amart, funny, darkly profound." —Nylon
Product Details
ISBN: 9781501194429
ISBN-10: 1501194429
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: January 8th, 2019
Pages: 256
Language: English