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Homesick for Another World

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An electrifying first collection from one of the most exciting short story writers of our time

Ottessa Moshfegh's debut novel Eileen was one of the literary events of 2015. Garlanded with critical acclaim, it was named a book of the year by The Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle, nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. But as many critics noted, Moshfegh is particularly held in awe for her short stories. Homesick for Another World is the rare case where an author's short story collection is if anything more anticipated than her novel.
And for good reason. There's something eerily unsettling about Ottessa Moshfegh's stories, something almost dangerous, while also being delightful, and even laugh-out-loud funny. Her characters are all unsteady on their feet in one way or another; they all yearn for connection and betterment, though each in very different ways, but they are often tripped up by their own baser impulses and existential insecurities. Homesick for Another World is a master class in the varieties of self-deception across the gamut of individuals representing the human condition.

But part of the unique quality of her voice, the echt Moshfeghian experience, is the way the grotesque and the outrageous are infused with tenderness and compassion. Moshfegh is our Flannery O'Connor, and Homesick for Another World is her Everything That Rises Must Converge or A Good Man is Hard to Find. The flesh is weak; the timber is crooked; people are cruel to each other, and stupid, and hurtful. But beauty comes from strange sources. And the dark energy surging through these stories is powerfully invigorating. We're in the hands of an author with a big mind, a big heart, blazing chops, and a political acuity that is needle-sharp. The needle hits the vein before we even feel the prick.

Bettering myself --
Mr. Wu --
Malibu --
The weirdos --
A dark and winding road --
No place for good people --
Slumming --
An honest woman --
The beach boy --
Nothing ever happens here --
Dancing in the moonlight --
The surrogate --
The locked room --
A better place

294 pages, Hardcover

First published January 12, 2017

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About the author

Ottessa Moshfegh

38 books14.1k followers
Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England. Eileen, her first novel, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Death in Her Hands, her second and third novels, were New York Times bestsellers. She is also the author of the short story collection Homesick for Another World and a novella, McGlue. She lives in Southern California.

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5 stars
5,287 (20%)
4 stars
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3 stars
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650 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,885 reviews
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 116 books156k followers
June 29, 2016
The good stories in this collection are brilliant. I am quite a fan of this writer. So many mordant observations of contemporary life. Lots of resignation in the characters and people who see the world without sentimentality. A bizarre and increasingly annoying preoccupation with fat and detailed descriptions of fatness. Like nearly every story someone is fat. Which is also reality. It just seems to be a specific preoccupation that became noticeable to the point of distraction. And it's fine. Just became a bit much with so many stories. Loved the absolute indifference so many of the characters had for living as they saw fit. Lots to chew on in this collection. I would recommend it even though I didn't love it. I respect the writing, admire it, even.
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews45.7k followers
May 31, 2021
my becoming-a-genius project, part 11!

for those of you who are somehow still here and equally unbelievably have not yet been cursed by seeing this project over and over in your feeds:
i have decided to become a genius.

to accomplish this, i'm going to work my way through the collected stories of various authors, reading + reviewing 1 story every day until i get bored / lose every single follower / am struck down by a vengeful deity.

i feel very called out by this title and very ready for two weeks' worth of ottessa moshfegh gross-out weirdness.


apt title for me + this project. me and this story are in such a fun cycle of self-improvement.
a few takeaways from this one:
1) this is like a nice little precursor to my year of rest and relaxation, a book that managed to trick me into reading eileen and mcglue and now this.
2) i also enjoy getting a little drunk and reading a book and calling it "bettering myself," so me and this protagonist have a significant amount of important stuff in common.
3) i bought this book used and it has this perfumey scent to it that i am actively angry about.
4) i think i adored this.
i'm a sucker for anything that describes how icky life is with descriptions of how sillily joyful and delightful it can be mixed in.
"sillily" - can you believe that's not a typo?
rating: 4.5

oh my god it rhymes.
this one was...too much for me. i won't lie.
rating: 2

wait this one rhymes with the one before. am i writing a song?
this is going to be a depressing project, i can tell. this one really made me think about how sad it is to expect good things to happen. good lord.
rating: 3.5

honestly scared of what Ottessa Moshfegh considers "weird." her status quo qualifies as utterly bizarro on my personal scale so i'm feeling: trepidation.
this was actually not that wild for her. how odd.
rating: 3

as usual, i have skipped a weekend day and come crawling back to play catch-up, this time because i had truly one of the most emotionally grueling days of my short life yesterday.
but here we are again, regardless. boats against the current and so on.
i am kind of beginning to wonder how much of a range ottessa moshfegh has. like...is there much to it besides gross-out lit fic?
rating: 3

this one has a very flannery o'connor-y title. so maybe there will be some variety here.
look at us. hopeful AND caught up.
there's something that feels very real to me about the idea of a flat and neutral life, neither pleasant or unpleasant, with the sole daily bright spot of watching the sun set. i hope that isn't my permanent setting but it does feel like my brain's default. does that make sense, hypothetical person reading this?
anyway, the titular place in question is Hooters, so definitely not flannery-esque.
rating: 3

no thoughts. head empty. but not in like a negative way.
rating: 3

honestly the perfume from this book is having a significant impact on my reading experience at this point. i think if i were ever to smell it on someone in a crowd or something i'd suddenly have war flashbacks to disturbing imagery and gross-out writing styles.
to be determined, i guess.
the point of this story is that men are very scary. this. makes me never want to buy a house, because that house could come included with the creepiest neighbor in global history.
rating: 3

it's summertime baby and you know what that means...
presumably being greatly disturbed by a seasonally appropriate Ottessa Moshfegh story!
turns out a beach boy is a prostitute. so never mind i guess.
this WAS different from the other stories, though. i'm sorry i doubted you, ottessa.
rating: 3

very apt title as i mark my 401st day in a row of doing the exact same thing.
this is maybe the first time in this whole collection that i've actually liked characters in a story. or at least cared about them and was interested in what would happen.
rating: 3.5

i feel like i want to finish this today.
i don't know why. i should have like 3 more days after this and i don't have my next one lined up.
going to try to resist that feeling.
ottessa moshfegh writes from male perspectives a LOT in this story. and i find women way more interesting than men so it's getting to be a snooze.
this is very much You, if the point of You wasn't Joe Goldberg's obsession but rather everything surrounding it.
rating: 3

again, i really want to finish this today. i think it's because i'm scared i'm entering a reading slump and so finishing a book that would take like under half an hour is very tempting.
but i don't necessarily want to take time off from this project, and i don't have another book lined up...
maybe i'll finish it tomorrow. today i will persist.
"On a good day, every small thing is enchanting."
rating: 3

going to finish this today.
also going to overshare here: for the past several days i've been on the verge of a depressive episode that was fully kicked into high gear by bo burnham's new special, so that may impact my ratings and is also definitely behind my decision to not allow this book to infect my brain chemistry for longer than one 15 minute period to be dealt with right now.
for example, i hated this one.
rating: 1

whatever, honestly. that is how i feel.
rating: 2.5

this was not better than My Year of Rest and Relaxation, and in many ways it was worse than Eileen and even McGlue.
unlike most of the collections i've read for this project, this was not more than the sum of its parts - when taken altogether, i liked this less.
maybe i'm just in a bad mood. but that's not exactly rare.
rating: 2.5
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,330 followers
January 5, 2017
Otessa Moshfegh had me with her Booker nominated Eileen. While the book was really creepy, Moshfegh pulled off quite a feat in creating such a relentlessly but complex unsavoury protagonist. That talent didn't play out as well for me in this short story collection. There were a few stories I really liked, but overall, as a collection, the stories started to feel like too much of the same flavour. Moshfegh is extremely talented at depicting flawed disturbed characters, and she certainly doesn't shy away from the ugly side of humanity or things that would turn many people's stomachs. When these talents are pushed too far, they feel more like a party trick than a study of human complexity. So the stories in this collection that worked the best for me were those where the characters' circumstances were more subtle -- for example, The Beach Boy about a middle aged couple's return from a beach vacation, and Nothing Ever Happens Here about a young man who moves to LA hoping to become a star. Given how much I liked Eileen and Moshfegh's obvious talent, I would definitely read her next novel but I'm not sure her short stories are for me. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,113 reviews8,043 followers
February 6, 2017
And anyway, there is no comfort here on Earth. There is pretending, there are words, but there is no peace. Nothing is good here. Nothing. Every place you go on Earth, there is more nonsense.

Trying to make sense of that nonsense in Ottessa Moshfegh's debut collection Homesick for Another World would be futile—as futile as the lives of many, if not all, of the characters in her stories. Things aren't pretty or comforting in this collection, but neither is life. And the delusion with which people tend to cope with life by pretending there's something worth living for, by imagining another world or "A Better Place" as one story is called, is front and center of this collection.

From the first page of the first story, "Bettering Myself," you'll get a sense of Moshfegh's fascination with the grotesque: "My classroom was on the first floor, next to the nuns' lounge. I used their bathroom to puke in the mornings."

In nearly every story she describes the filthy habits of her characters, their acne and defecation, the squalor in which they live. You might want to describe them superficially as 'unlikeable,' but they aren't. At least, they aren't all totally batty and irredeemable. They are mostly just sad. It's as if they've all been plopped on Earth from somewhere greater, another world that they're left dreaming about, which sets them apart from society and makes them unhappy.

If you're squeamish or you don't prefer to read about dark, disturbing people, you've been warned. But if you appreciate complex and fascinating character studies that make you think "oh god how could she write that?" and "that was bloody brilliant" at the same time, enjoy. In fact, this collection has made me rethink Moshfegh's novel Eileen, one that I didn't love and said I would never read again—but I just might.
Profile Image for Robin.
475 reviews2,560 followers
February 6, 2017
14 glimpses down dark alleys, Moshfegh-style

Booker nominated Eileen knocked me on my ass (in a good way) last year - earning my favourite read of 2016. I was so enamoured with the no-mercy-for-you way Ottessa Moshfegh writes. When I saw she had a collection of short stories I was chomping at the bit to get at em, despite the early mixed reviews that I was reading on Goodreads.

I wasn't all that surprised to see that the reviews were mixed; the same is true for Eileen, and I can understand why. Moshfegh's style is harsh. She does not shy away from the icky, unpleasant, ugly underbelly. I've gotten defensive of her as an author because I find her so damn powerful and talented. So she had some living up to do with Homesick for Another World.

Her writing is still raw, visceral, and ruthless. Still no mercy. Oh goodness, she could have spared a LITTLE here and there, because as much as I heart Ottessa, I must sadly agree with some of the reviewers who determined that some of the nasty bits were just so nasty that they come off more as Moshfegh's insulting party trick than anything else. I could have done without some of the graphic sex scenes in particular, with fingers in places I didn't need to know about... c'mon, OM, what're you doing to me?!

So, there's that.

But, the writing. I'm still swooning over it. The short stories are on average 20 pages each, so they're really just glimpses. Don't expect a story arc, or much resolution to take place. These stories are grim, expertly depicted snapshots. Snapshots of people/things I probably only want to read about, not experience in real life.

I recognised "Strange Woman" from a recent New Yorker podcast, which I enjoyed. "Bettering Myself" was a harsh look at an alcoholic teacher. "Slumming" a strange tale about a woman (another teacher) who spends summers in a cruddy small town, often in a narcotic haze. "The Beach Boy" and "Nothing Ever Happens Here" are more of the subtler stories and were well done.

Most of the characters are incredibly lonely and painfully isolated in different ways, and while their stories aren't pretty, I think they are worth telling, and reading. (Though, my caveat will remain: if Eileen didn't do it for you, this definitely won't.)
Profile Image for Matt Quann.
616 reviews377 followers
September 25, 2020
So, I know that Moshfegh's writing is not going to be for everyone, but DAMN does this lady know how to put together a short story collection. Many of the review quotes on my copy of the book describe physical bodily harm (mild electrocution and blowtorch scorching) as a comparator for reading Moshfegh's writing. It is an odd thing to slap on a cover and expect it to sell copies, but it is oddly appropriate here. These stories pulled me in and then attacked without warning with grotesque imagery, unexpected violence, or deviance. It's to Moshfegh's credit that her writing remains endlessly compelling even when at its most depraved.

Moshfegh's interest in persons on the periphery of the populace who fail to adhere to societal norms is again her subject in this collection. Though I'm not the first person to note this, all of the stories in Homesick for Another World share characters who are striving to connect to others or belong to a world from which they are all too often excluded. I loved popping in everyday to read a story and meet some new misfit that Moshfegh had drummed up in order to try and understand their perspectives. That Moshfegh is able to make you feel for these characters even when they disgust the reader makes for a reading experience only comparable to her novel, Eileen.

Again, this is not a collection that I can recommend to everyone. If you've read Eileen and found it too revolting, it's likely you'll have a similar reaction here. With that said, these are short stories and they differ enough from Eileen in that if you dislike a character so much that it prevents you from reading, you can just skip on to the next story. These are also not stories in the classical sense. We are not given a tidy story structure and are instead offered windows into characters' lives that end as quickly as they begin. I enjoy this short story structure, but I know it drives some people absolutely mad. Proceed with caution.

This is my first collection of 2018 and I'm hoping to read a batch of short stories around a monthly basis. With Ottessa Moshfegh, I'm off to a terrific start. Do check this one out!
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,694 reviews14.1k followers
January 5, 2017
Quite frankly these were way more explicit than I was expecting. They may have been well written but I found many of these just plain disgusting and to what end? Let's just say I am not the right reader for these, I finished story two and three, feeling grody, nasty. Not why I read. To ne fair, there were a few stories I did like better and you may not have the same objections I have, so read them for yourselves and see.

ARC from Netgalley.
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book1,724 followers
February 16, 2023
My grammy used to say something to me that I never understood, and still don't: "A fool returns to his folly like a dog to its vomit." (By the power of the internet I have just now discovered that my grammy was quoting Proverbs.)

Anyway, that is exactly the sentence that came into my head, when I tried to write here about what it was like for me to read these stories.
Profile Image for LA Cantrell.
424 reviews542 followers
June 12, 2017
Nobody wants a sloppy drunk teaching their kids, but freako little writer Ottessa Moshfegh managed to make me love a teacher like that in no time.

A depressed, hard-drinking Catholic school teacher has a little stab of hope splinter into her world one day, and I had to cheer her on. Does she come to school hung over and nauseated on a regular basis? Yup. But I mostly forgave her. That's what author Moshfegh will do to you.

I loved this little anecdote, plunked into the teacher's tale. While the seniors in class are pretty sharp, this instructor's got her share of difficult students - ones she knows will do badly on standardized testing...the same measure by which her job security is ranked. She explains the logic of her procedure for the exam: " I passed out the tests, had them break the seals, showed them how to fill in the bubbles properly with the right pencils, told them, "try your best," and then I took the tests home and switched all their answers.

No way those dummies would cost me my job."


One never knows what sort of freaky jack-in-the-box is going to pop up in this writer's work, and I will tell you that some horrific bodily stuff and behaviors do so. There are themes of self-loathing in many of the stories, but it is the males who are most concerned about their imperfections. Their acne or belly fat or lazy eye or blotchy skin color is what the guys fret about. The women are nearly all into alcohol or drugs, but they're okay with their own bodies. In a book full of literary grotesques, that's rather a refreshing thing.

Now, not all of fourteen protagonists are grotesque. One story was about a nice guy - a retiree who works at a home for the disabled to keep himself feeling needed. I read a review somewhere that said this particular story had the word "retard" in it several times, and that left me afraid to read it.

I've got a kid with pretty hefty autism, so the R word offends me like the N word or C word offends you. I did not want to have to fall out of love with Moshfegh's writing with this story, but in I went. It was wonderful!

The happy sundae topper for me in this story was that apparently Moshfegh holds Hooters in the same disdain that I do. Her character says :"I tried to hide my concern, but it was impossible. Hooters was no place for good people." Amen, sister.

Beyond these two stories, some quite reprehensible characters live here in this collection, all looking for something to fill them up - love or fame or escape, maybe. Although many of them are pretty unlikeable, their honest human needs are entirely relatable. These are exquisite character studies! But (a second word of caution) - you have got to get through some incredibly foul behaviors if you are going to read all these tales. Big time foul.

The name of author Ottessa Moshfegh may ring a familiar bell as her quirky and darkly comedic debut novel Eileen was a 2016 short-lister for the Man Booker. It was also shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the PEN/Hemingway Award. The book was a dark, crazy, slow burning five-star ride in a clunker with a really bad exhaust system. I highly recommend it!

If you loved Eileen, then please go ahead and grab these stories. Damn if she cannot make you feel something!

My thanks to Ms. Moshfegh and the publisher for an advance reading copy.
Profile Image for Rachel.
550 reviews863 followers
January 16, 2019
Ottessa Moshfegh has to be one of my favorite writers that I discovered in 2018; My Year of Rest and Relaxation both thrilled and unsettled me, and after I finished that I proceeded to devour her debut novel Eileen. So it was with optimism that I approached her short story collection Homesick for Another World - I was looking forward to more delightfully awful antiheroines and sardonic humor and a heightened awareness of the mundane. Be careful what you wish for, I guess?

What made Eileen's titular protagonist and My Year of Rest and Relaxation's unnamed narrator so fascinating wasn't just the fact that they weren't particularly likable people; their thorny exteriors were a result of two distinct tragic backstories, whose ramifications Moshfegh deftly explored throughout the course of each novel. It turns out that bite-sized stories about awful characters doing awful things and thinking awful thoughts are so much less interesting when their behavior isn't rationalized or contextualized in that same way. Reading story after story about humanity's capacity for cruelty starts to feel like a shtick after a while, like a party trick that's worn out its welcome. It's easy to become desensitized when you feel like the author's main objective is to shock you.

Two stories stood out to me: The Beach Boy follows an older married couple returning from an island vacation, only for the wife to die unexpectedly as soon as they arrive home. Unpalatable as this couple may be, like all of Moshfegh's protagonists, we actually are able to get invested in them before the story takes a turn for the macabre. And A Better Place ends the collection on a positively eerie note, telling the story of two young twins who are convinced that they weren't born on earth, and to get back to that other place, they need to either die or kill someone. I think it speaks volumes that the best story in the collection is the one that's least like the others; A Better Place is wildly inventive and not quite as grounded in gritty realism as the others, but still dark and twisted and more haunting than the rest of the stories combined.

That's two out of fourteen that made an impression on me. The rest honestly just blend together. Moshfegh has such a unique voice as a writer that shines through all of the stories in this collection, but rather than bringing me the same kind of offbeat joy as her two novels, this collection just started to make me miserable after a while. Apparently my average rating for all these stories was 2.7 stars, but I'm rounding down due to the dread I felt about picking this back up when I wasn't reading it. I'm still going to read everything Moshfegh writes... I'm just hoping for more novels from now on.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,474 reviews2,307 followers
January 17, 2021
What a wild ride! Moshfegh's collection contains 14 short stories, all of them glimpses into the lives of alienated characters - which is why the title is fitting. We meet men and women of different backgrounds and ages, all of them apparently feeling different kinds of emptiness, which they try to escape through daydreams, drugs or whatever else might distract them, including cruelty. In fact, there is plenty of psychological cruelty in these texts.

And Moshfegh is bold and effective when it comes to describing all things disturbing, off-putting and downright disgusting. There is no question that this woman can write masterfully. There is one thing that bothered me in many of these stories though: While the antiheroines in Eileen and My Year of Rest and Relaxation have to deal with backstories and circumstances that make their behavior understandable (even if the reader might not act the same way), many scenes and sentences we encounter here lack context and appear cruel in a cynical, misanthropic way. Sure, the characters in these stories certainly have their personal histories as well, histories we don't learn about in the short story form, but the way their behavior is framed and presented too often felt like written for shock effect or to test out how far you can push it before it becomes too outrageous.

It's an extremely well-written kind of reader manipulation, compelling and strangely fascinating, but sometimes upsetting and even infuriating. While reading Moshfegh, I was also tackling Houellebecq's Sérotonine, and it made for a strange effect: Houellebecq seems so much more empathetic and melancholic in comparison, which speaks volumes, and while I often (very often!) disagree with him, he stands for certain things: He criticizes the destruction of the environment and the loneliness of postmodernity, for instance. Moshfegh does not write in order to stand for a certain position, which makes for an additional dimension of emptiness in these stories about alienation.

I'm still an admirer of Moshfegh's work and will certainly read whatever she comes up with next, but these stories involved just a little too much pointless showmanship for my taste.
Profile Image for Hugh.
1,254 reviews49 followers
September 27, 2018
Another book that has been sitting on the to-read shelf for ages. My only previous experience of Moshfegh was her novel Eileen, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Booker prize and certainly divided opinion with its bleak situation and unsympathetic characters.

This collection of short stories also visits some pretty dark places. The stories are told in the first person by a number of narrators who might naturally be seen as life's losers, who are unafraid to discuss unsavoury subjects. This actually works rather well, largely thanks to the dark humour of the situations - many of the protagonists are heading for something disastrous often with little awareness, and the climactic scenes are often omitted, making the stories elliptical.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,744 reviews4,170 followers
February 9, 2017
If you thought the eponymous antiheroine of Ottessa Moshfegh's Eileen was downtrodden, depraved and desperate... well, let's just say you ain't seen nothing yet.

The characters in Moshfegh's short stories are wretched and invariably lonely, even (perhaps especially) when they are not alone. They haunt shabby apartments and dirty restaurants. They're ugly on either the inside or outside, or both. If they have a job, they probably hate it. If they have a partner, they probably hate them. If they do experience any small bright spark of contentment, it's bound to be somehow extinguished. More than anything else, the people in these stories bubble over with contempt: for themselves, for others, for the world.

Moshfegh has a tendency to push far enough past realism that she seems to start slipping into satire. 'Mr. Wu', in which the title character courts the woman of his dreams by sending her a horrifically insulting text message, feels like a pitch-black riff on the culture of pick-up artists and 'negging'; in 'Bettering Myself', it's impossible to believe the incessantly negligent protagonist would be able to hang on to her job as a teacher for more than a day. There are hints of Lindsay Hunter's grotesque visions of working-class America, as well as the grimy dystopia of George Saunders. Though a handful deviate from type – 'The Beach Boy' revolves around a well-off couple in their fifties – most fit a mould of sorts: misfits living in sorry conditions and behaving in misanthropic, occasionally shocking, ways which are difficult to understand or rationalise.

Many of the stories also have what you might term non sequitur endings. At best, they seem deliberately built that way: a glimpse into twilight worlds in which the cruellest possible punchline is that life goes on. At worst (an example being the otherwise strong 'A Dark and Winding Road') they feel like the author found an almost-finished draft and stuck a random paragraph on the end to make it resemble a complete story in the most basic sense. Moshfegh gave a now-notorious interview about Eileen in which she claimed to have started writing it as a joke, using a manual called The 90-Day Novel, but it's this book, much more than that one, that feels like it's been hastily assembled.

If you've read Eileen, it's impossible not to feel the shadow of Eileen Dunlop hanging over these stories. It's not unusual for them to slip into the same lacerating tone of self-hatred Moshfegh used in her novel:
Nothing made me happy. I went out to the pool, skimmed the surface of the blue water with my hand, praying for one of us, my boyfriend or me, to die. ('Weirdos')

I had a thing about fat people. It was the same thing I had about skinny people: I hated their guts. ('Malibu')

Earth is the wrong place for me, always was and will be until the day I die. ('A Better Place')
Nevertheless, I'd hesitate to say 'if you liked Eileen, you'll love this'. Spending time inside an 'unlikeable' character's head for the duration of an entire novel challenges you to understand them, find empathy, collude with their actions, see yourself reflected. Being confronted with a slew of bile-filled individuals and dismal situations in quick succession is another thing altogether, and offers little opportunity to get to grips with the whys and wherefores of these people's lives.

My favourite story in Homesick For Another World was 'Weirdos', an unpredictable narrative that contains more discernible traces of humour than most of the others. 'Slumming' and 'Dancing in the Moonlight' also stand out. There are great lines in almost every story, making them strongest at the sentence level, and it's possible to open the book at any page and pull out a wonderful soundbite or piece of description. Ultimately, however, I found the cumulative effect of so many negative characters, filled with inward and outward loathing, draining. This wasn't a book I relished reading – in fact, finishing it was like forcing bitter medicine down my throat. There's no doubt Moshfegh is a technically excellent writer, but I can't give a particularly high rating or recommendation when my prevailing reaction was 'thank god that's over'.

(It does amuse me that numerous people seem to have thought this was a sci-fi book because there's an illustration of a spaceship on the cover of the US edition. Perhaps I should issue a disclaimer that it's not about dogs either?)

I received an advance review copy of Homesick For Another World from the publisher through NetGalley.

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Profile Image for leah.
264 reviews1,846 followers
September 11, 2021
unfortunately, this didn’t really work for me. at first i wasn’t sure if that’s because i’m not the biggest fan of short story collections anyway, or if it was because i had already read her 2 most popular books before this - but now i think it’s a mix of both. for me, this collection falls a bit flat compared to eileen and my year of rest and relaxation, and i think this is because moshfegh’s talent really shines in full length novels where she has the room to write the kind of rich, in-depth character studies that she’s known for. like with her other work, this one showcases her ability to write gross and unlikeable characters, but i found myself growing bored a lot.

another criticism i have of this is that basically every story had some kind of vivid, negatively-skewed description of fat people/fatness (though never the main characters, who were always thin). i understand why she did it because she’s just conveying reality, and a lot of these characters had eating disorders too which probably contributed to its repetition throughout the collection, but i thought using fatness as a way to convey a certain personality of the side characters felt a bit lazy for a great writer like moshfegh, and i don’t think it was necessary to be mentioned in every single story.

while i can understand and appreciate the POINT of this collection (existentialism, nihilism, the banality of life, etc), the stronger aspects just weren’t enough to save it. i’m still a fan of moshfegh and her work, this one just fell a bit flat for me.

but i think my favourite stories were: bettering myself, slumming, the beach boy, and nothing ever happens here.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,197 reviews35 followers
June 26, 2018
There were about 2 stories that stood out more than the others but the rest didn’t do anything for me. The stories felt incredibly repetitive by the time I neared the end and many of them had unsatisfying endings or no ending to really speak of. Given how many people have given this collection 4 of 5 stars I feel like I am either not intelligent enough to get these (if there is some deeper meaning to it all) or I just missed the point.

Quite a few (if not all) of the stories here can be described as unpleasant or unsettling, but not in a particularly interesting way — and even that became repetitive after a while, all of these characters who hated their partner or lives but somehow thought they were above it all and could do so much better (despite them not being great people). Again, I know, stories don’t need to be about nice or great people to be enjoyable. But - in my opinion - these weren’t strong stories in any respect.

Pretty disappointing stuff to be honest. The writing didn’t stand out for me either, so I’d hesitate before reading anything else by this author.
Profile Image for Jessica Sullivan.
518 reviews422 followers
February 6, 2017
This is one of the rare cases where I prefer a writer's short stories to her full-length novel. As much as I enjoyed Eileen (Moshfegh's 2015 novel), I thought that the actual plot paled in comparison to her superb character development and grim, nasty prose.

Homesick for Another World gives Moshfegh the opportunity to make her characters the true focal point, without the expectation of a long, cohesive plot. It's like reading about a dozen Eileens in small doses.

Moshfegh's characters are isolated, lonely, perverted and grotesque. Physically, they're sort of like those jarring hyperrealistic sculptures: her descriptions focus on their pus-filled blemishes, their greasy skin, their thinning hair. Underneath, they're pitiable—often detestable—people with delusions of grandeur and unfulfilled desires.

Throughout, Moshfegh eschews sentimentality for grim realism and dark humor, but the key thing here is that she maintains compassion for her characters; as repulsive as they may be, we never lose sight of their humanity.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,179 reviews9,236 followers
July 25, 2018

This book seems to have a bit of a food obsession.

I watched the waitresses move around gingerly with their round black trays of coloured cocktails and small plates of bread and bowls of olives p11

Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we're in the mood --
Cold jelly and custard!

He ate a soup made of mutton and spicy peppers. He shovelled the rice into his mouth like a peasant, let it fall all over his lap and onto the floor p31

Peas pudding and saveloys
What next is the question?
Rich gentlemen have it, boys --

He rarely left the living room and liked to order in large Mexican dinners or whole pizzas. He was always eating something and dumping out the colostomy bag right afterward. P39

Just picture a great big steak
Fried, roasted, or stewed
Oh food! magical food! wonderful
food! marvelous food!

We got up and ate the food she had made : spaghetti and meatballs and chocolate pudding. Then I threw up and said goodbye. P51

Food, glorious food!
What is there more handsome?
Gulped, swallowed or chewed --
Still worth a king's ransom.

I brought all my favourite things to eat and ate them almost immediately upon arrival : cornichons, smoked trout, rye crackers, sheep feta, cured olived, dried cherries, coconut-covered dates, Toblerone. P74

What is it we dream about?
What brings on a sigh?
Piled peaches and cream , about
Six feet high!

I also bought a six-pack of beer, a family-sized bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, and a pound of Twizzlers from the gas station p77

Food, glorious food!
Don't care what it looks like --
Burned! Underdone! Crude!
Don't care what the cook's like.

The fattest people on earth could be found buzzing around in electronic wheelchairs, trailing huge carts full of hamburger meat and cake mix and jugs of vegetable oil and pillow-size bags of chips p112

Just thinking of growing fat --
Our senses go reeling
One moment of knowing that
Full-up feeling!

He lit the stove, melted the margarine, poured the popcorn in, and stood over the pot with his eyes closed p167

Food, glorious food!
What wouldn't we give for
That extra bit more --
That's all that we live for

I lived off powdered cinnamon doughnuts and orange soda, fries from Astro Burger, and occasional joints rolled with stale weed p 188

Why should we be fated to
Do nothing but brood
On food

“Now here, eat this.” She returned with a dinner plate piled high with meat loaf… “That is kasha,” she said, pointing to a boiling pot on the stove. “I would offer you some but you’ll hate it. It tastes like cats…” p201

Magical food,
Wonderful food

I lay on my bed digesting the mound of schnitzel and boxed mashed potatoes and JELL-O she’d prepared herself p204

Marvellous food,


David Foster wallace talking about The Pale King (an unfinished novel):

It’s a series of set-ups for things to happen but nothing ever happens

This is some people’s idea of what short stories in general are. I would struggle violently to tell everyone that no, that’s not what they are, and things do happen in a short story. But Ottessa Moshfegh is here to pull the rug from under my thrashings and embarrassing armwavings and babblings because here are 14 stories which are exactly set-ups for things to happen but nothing ever happens. Including one story called “Nothing Ever Happens Here”. I see what she did there…
Profile Image for Darri.
27 reviews7 followers
July 20, 2016
How can anybody find the hubris to write short stories knowing that Ottessa Moshfegh's are a thousand times smarter, more transgressive, more alive, and more fun to read than yours? Even the "worst" story in this collection has a bloody, erratically-beating heart that makes all other works of contemporary short fiction look pasty and feeble. The best stories in this collection reassure me that fiction still has the power to be simultaneously relevant and transcendent, ruthless and tender, hilarious and devastating. I may be crying as I write this review. The fact that Roxane Gay of all people only gave this collection 3 stars made me laugh so hard I nearly asphyxiated.
Profile Image for Lotte.
536 reviews1,106 followers
March 24, 2018
If I had to describe this collection in one sentence, it would be: Weird people thinking and doing very weird shit.
Ottessa Moshfegh's debut novel Eileen was one of my favourite books I read last year, and while I think her short story collection goes in a similar direction, it didn’t do what Eileen did nearly as well. Ottessa Moshfegh definitely has a knack for dwelling in the murky, grotesque corners of life and I think there’s a lot of value in putting characters (especially, female characters) we usually don’t get to read about in the center of the narrative, but in this case it felt like I was reading, what was essentially a different variation of the same story, over and over again.
Most stories dealt with the daily habits and routines of a character who feels sort of removed from society in one way or another, and who thinks and does stuff that most of us would probably consider rather strange. This character usually comes in contact with another character who’s equally as weird and they have some sort of discussion, which seems both heavy with meaning and completely nonsensical.
Most of Moshfegh’s characters are described as yearning for something more they can't quite grasp (they’re literally, homesick for another world), hoping to break out of their often very sad existence. The writing manages to conjure up the feelings of hopelessness and loss that the characters feel, but after having read a couple of stories I started to feel very indifferent to the characters’ struggles because of the repetitiveness of the whole thing.
There were a few stories that didn’t adhere to this pattern and those were my favourites (my favourite story being the very last one, A Better Place). Overall, however, I feel like you can read any single story from this collection and pretty much know what the rest of the stories are about.
Profile Image for Judith E.
532 reviews188 followers
June 24, 2020
These short stories have all the grit of Moshfegh’s novels, but these snippets only make her repetitive darkness purposeless. Rounded up from 2.5.
Profile Image for Troy Walker.
156 reviews87 followers
December 27, 2022
2nd read:
Still five stars. Still slaps. Still enjoyed every single story.

1st read:
“Life can be strange sometimes, and knowing it can be doesn’t seem to make it any less so.”
Moshfegh perfectly depicts the grotesque qualities of humans and reality. The writing is sharp and witty; the characters profound and unapologetic. Starting each new story in this collection was so exciting because I truly never knew what kind of bizarre character’s life or situation I was going to get thrown into. I can’t get enough of Moshfegh.
Profile Image for Melanie.
268 reviews130 followers
March 19, 2017
I don't really know what to say. Most of the stories had a beginning, and a middle but then just stopped. I am not a huge fan of short stories but I guess I like them to have some sort of ending. I feel each story had one thing in common which was a main character who was lonely or sad or kind of pathetic. Several of them made me wince. Just an ok read for me. I do want to read her novel Eileen!
Profile Image for Uzma Ali.
97 reviews1,367 followers
July 14, 2021
I just love Ottessa Moshfegh’s stuff. Call me an Ottessa Moshfegh fangirl. This is a collection of short stories, which i claimed (in a fit of what I had assumed was my own enlightened wisdom at 3 AM) a love letter to the lonely.

We are plunged into a bunch of different characters’ lives. Just smack-dab in the middle of it. The way Moshfegh writes these stories is as if we already know who these people are, and I love that. It’s just like little slices of life! All of the stories are a bit unsettling, some more than others. And many of the characters are unlikable, but you relate to them anyways. You really don’t want to, but you do.
(Sidebar: remember, I think we can only appreciate art if the things that are depicted in it reflect some of our knowledge of what life is. I think everyone can resonate with at least one story.)
But things in life don’t end up the way we want them to. It’s never happily ever after, and I think that’s what this is all about.

Even though Moshfegh is a woman, she often writes stories from the perspective of men, which can make descriptions of their lust interests very disturbing. It truly felt like a male writer was constructing some of these stories, and once I thought to myself— I was like, yeah that’s kinda genius the way she was able to pull that off.

Another thing is it did take me a minute to understand what the fuck was going on with the stories. I had to close to book after each chapter and pretend I was making my own “12 Easter Eggs You Missed!” YouTube video. But once you apply your own meaning to them, you feel so smart, and you feel closer to this book as a whole.

I was thinking of rating this a 3 stars. Many of the stories began to feel too similar to each other, and I was getting a little tired of it. But the last story stole the show for me. With elements reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut and a family that reminded me of my own, I understood the symbolism of the story so quickly, and it made me cry my freaking eyes out dude. It felt like a part of my life no joke. I would recommend and go into this with an open mind and open heart. Acknowledge what Moshfegh intended with the stories and then build upon that. Create your own.
Profile Image for Tomasz.
392 reviews730 followers
July 26, 2022
Niesamowicie nierówny zbiór- opowiadania absolutnie wspaniałe przeplatają się z kiepskimi, o których zapominałem zaraz po przeczytaniu. Dużo naturalistycznych opisów i motywów, z którymi nie miałem wcześniej styczności w literaturze. Mnie fascynowało, ale jestem pewien, że wiele osób będzie czuło głównie niesmak. Wystawiłbym 3,5, ale z zaokrągleniem w górę, zwłaszcza za ostatnie opowiadanie („Lepsze miejsce”).
Profile Image for Lee Klein .
794 reviews838 followers
September 2, 2022
The first story seemed like the basis for My Year of Rest and Relaxation -- it seemed more like life, or from life, than the novel, which seemed to distill or diffuse whatever underlying experience or image inspired them. "The Weirdos" and "The Dark and Winding Road" transcend or blow doors on my sense of her standard default cruising altitude of "the fictional," probably mostly a function of language but not just that. "The Weirdos" seems to me like a perfect performance of revved up, forward-flowing language evoking odd yet realistic or believable details and related emotional and psychic states (weird third-eye tattoo, Egyptian crows). It's in the first power-hitter slot (ie, the third story) in the collection's lineup for a reason. The clean-up hitter, "The Dark and Winding Road," is less reliant on language but achieves maybe halfway through entrance into a sense of open space when the dude starts pretending he's gay with his brother's lady friend -- and then there's the surprising yet totally freaking inevitable end (if a dildo is introduced in the second act etc). "An Honest Woman" also achieved 3D magic-eye poster evocation for me -- a similar dynamic to The Dark and Winding Road (ill-matched man and woman together in what feels like a remote room). The others didn't open up for me and often seemed rote, like she were trying to achieve what she did with those mentioned above but couldn't quite achieve levitation, fifth gear, entrance into open territory, whatever you want to call it when the writing exudes that unique icky allure particular to the author's best pages.
Profile Image for Kevin.
Author 28 books35.4k followers
June 10, 2017
One of the things that attracts me most to Moshfegh's work is how grimy, how gross, her characters and settings can be--just like real life! I highly respect how she just GOES THERE. Not every story is like that (The Beach Boy feels like an Alice Munro story) but there's a weird darkness throughout. I loved the tension of A Dark and Winding Road, the uncomfortable humor of No Place For Good People, the angry loneliness of Slumming, and the fucked-up vagueness of The Surrogate. I think I'll pretty much everything Moshfegh writes (reading her novella, McGlue, soon).
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