“I’ve always liked the word ‘cleave’ because it has two opposite meanings: to split or divide and to adhere or cling. Those two tendencies have been operating in me simultaneously for as long as I can remember.”
Pretend I’m Dead by Jen Beagin is essentially a series of four short stories focusing on the same main character.
Mona is an incredibly honest, likable 24-year-old who cleans houses for a living and has a penchant for photography. She is a dreamer but has no real direction or goals and seems to be aimlessly drifting through life. Mona seems to live in her own head a lot and enjoys speculating about other people’s lives based on the things she finds while cleaning their homes. As a child, she was sent to live with her aunt who became her only real source of stability.
Mona had a pretty messed up childhood. Her father was unstable and abusive. Her broken relationship with her father seems to have an impact on Mona throughout her life. The book deals with some pretty dark topics, such as child molestation and pornography, when it comes to Mona’s childhood.
In each chapter, Mona meets new characters that influence her life in some way. She meets and has a short-lived relationship with a drug addict. He breaks her heart and she ends up moving across the country to New Mexico where she meets a whole cast of strange characters. Nigel and Shiori, who are her quirky neighbors, Henry, a very sick businessman whose house she cleans, and Betty, who is an extremely over-the-top, self-proclaimed psychic. Mona learns something about herself, and we see her grow in different ways because of her relationships with each of these characters. Over the course of the book, we see Mona trying to figure out who she is and by the end we see her start to actually live her life.
Initially, I picked this book up because the title intrigued me. It’s a short book, and I was able to finish it in a day. This was strange, dark, unique, and at times funny novel. Overall, I really enjoyed it. I didn’t want the time with Mona to end, and I look forward to the author’s next book.
PUBLICATION DETAILS: Triquarterly, October 1, 2015, 978-0810132078