PositiveWashington Independent Review of BooksImpressionistic and digressive, A Country for Dying has no plot nor consistent perspective. The narrative moves through time and space in a manner that can be disorienting, one character’s story blending into the next—their fantasies, fixations, and traumas merging. There are points where these transitions feel jarring or overly tenuous, and in that way, this book is challenging. But the patient reader will be well rewarded—the book has no omniscient narrator to act as a guide, but neither does it contain any contrivance or false emotion. Its prose is forceful and direct—this, no doubt, is thanks to Emma Ramadan’s fluid, responsive, and economical translation—and it becomes clear, by the book’s conclusion, that the author’s vision is cohesive and elegant ... it feels true and correct that his narrative is fragmented and littered with jagged edges, and that his characters are at once violent and rageful, remorseful and dreamy.
RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksMoshfegh is among the most talented writers working. I can think of no one who writes with greater insight about isolation and the often-macabre manner in which it warps the psyche ... Vesta is a...beguiling character, but it was not the murder mystery she perseverates over that drew me in. The question of how she ended up alone at the end of her life—so isolated that there is nothing and no one to prevent her from receding into a complex imaginative world—is far more engaging ... the account of her life that appears in the form of reminiscences slipped between long fictive digressions tells a darker and more poignant story than the account of any murder.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... full of wry humor, and O’Connell is an earnest, self-effacing narrator wise enough to employ filial love as recurrent theme to give his book emotional ballast. His greatest virtue, however, is his talent as a critic and interpreter ... might seem like unsettling reading at the moment, given the great suffering we are collectively experiencing...But there is, counterintuitively, something bracing about reading the book in this context ... will strike some as a deeply cynical insight, but it can also be read as a comforting one — a means of making sense of seemingly uncontrollable forces ... Fortunately for his readers, O’Connell himself adopts a more optimistic perspective near the end of his book. After more than 200 pages of despair and bleak prognostication, he concludes his narrative with a sentiment of great maturity.