If you’re at all interested in this book then you have probably already heard it is full of nasty characters. And by “nasty” I don’t necessarily mean bad. I have not yet read Ottessa Moshfegh’s Man Booker Prize nominated novel Eileen, but I recently bought it after reading this collection. And though Eileen is marketed as thriller I have heard that it is much more of a character study– which is exactly what this collection of stories is as well.
Homesick for Another World contains fourteen short stories, but nothing much happens in them. In fact, many end with unsatisfying or nonexistent resolutions. Stories like these have a special place in my heart, but I know there are quite a few people who dislike them. The reason I like them is that each story shows a glimpse of a character’s life. If someone glimpsed my life for a period of days or weeks I am sure there would be many loose threads that would be unable to reach an end in such a short amount of time. Moshfegh’s stories peek into the lives of her characters, we watch them for a bit, and then we both go on our way. This, to me, makes them feel like real people with an ongoing existence.
To further add to that sense of realism, Moshfegh does not shy away from the nasty parts of humanity. She discusses sexual fetishes, bodily functions, and a whole host of dark thoughts and emotions we might experience daily. There were a few times when I read a characters’ thoughts and realized I was repulsed and yet I’ve at least briefly thought on a similar wavelength. It is unsettling to relate to such horrible characters, but I began asking myself if they are truly horrible people or do I only view them as horrible because I am inside their heads? Outwardly, they may be able to appear normal in society– just like me or the person next to me on the bus– and yet in the safety of their minds they might house the most unsettling thoughts and desires. Moshfegh forces readers to bring light to these inner dark places.