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Pretend I'm Dead

by Jen Beagin

Relationship Stories

LoveReading View on Pretend I'm Dead

Twenty-three-year-old Mona is a messed-up, one-of-a-kind character who gives out needles to drug addicts and makes ends meet by cleaning. After falling for an older addict she names Mr Disgusting, who proceeds to give her the runaround and break her heart, Mona heads to New Mexico where she sets up her Bees Knees Housekeeping business (“Clean Like You’ve Never Seen, Honey!”) while navigating the rocky fall-out from her abusive childhood. Here she meets a bunch of fellow oddballs, among them do-gooding New Agers “Yoko and Yoko” and her psychic client, Betty, who lives in a “casino pink” trailer. Mono is a meticulous cleaner with a talent for uncovering her clients’ dirty secrets. She’s also given to outlandish fantasies and speculation, an irrepressible force who tries to lives by her own rules, such as “never watching a period drama unless she was on her period”, as she quips.


At once a vivid portrait of outcasts’ lives and messy attempts to lay ghosts to rest, this is an outrageous, funny, moving debut. While Mona’s voice is often hilarious, her story is underpinned by deep-rooted damage, but she’s never one to wallow in self-pity. Like Mona, the writing speaks on its own terms  -it’s sparky, irreverent, switchblade-sharp and punch-packingly original. 

Joanne Owen

Pretend I'm Dead Synopsis

Mona is twenty-three, emotionally adrift and cleaning houses to get by.

While handing out clean needles to drug addicts, 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 New Mexico for a fresh start, but always lurking just beneath the surface are the ghosts of her past, and the crushing legacy of a chaotic, destructive childhood. It seems running further away from her problems could just leave more inventive ways for them to find her.

Pretend I'm Dead Press Reviews

`I am rollicking through Pretend I'm Dead by Jen Beagin, which is one of the funniest, most twisted and freshest things I've read in a long time. It follows the fortunes of Mona, who cleans houses and falls for a man she calls Mr Disgusting. Beagin combines deep compassion and irreverent humour to create characters with nasty, wonderful, human flaws.' - Jess Kidd, Observer

` turns laugh-out-loud funny and deeply affecting... Wiping the floor with other, more hyped debuts this year, Pretend I'm Dead should clean up with readers and awards lists alike.' - Irish Times

`It's Mona's ballsy, kickass voice that makes this novel tick. Unreliable, sharply observant and funny, she recounts her journey of self-discovery in a way that is immediate and intriguing.' - Daily Mail

`Rib-ticklingly funny-sad... [Beagin] works magic in the space between hilarity and heartbreak... Absurdly affecting.' - O Magazine Best Books of 2018

`This novel had me rooting for its protagonist, Mona, 23 and cleaning houses to get by as she tries to figure her life out, from the very of the most moving novels I've read all year.' - Elle

`With her droll humor and hilarious (but also earnest) observations, the 24-year-old narrator of Pretend I'm Dead had us hooked from page one... Glide through Mona's series of bad decisions with her - she's a good companion.' - Refinery29, Best Books of 2018

`Frank and unflinching... This book invaded my dreams, took over my conversation, and otherwise seduced me totally.' - Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End

'A bright, brittle achievement.' - The Spectator

`Sharp but empathetic... Clear-eyed and funny... What gives this novel its heart is Beagin's capacity for seeing... Beagin makes [her theme] fresh with her sly, funny, compassionate voice. This is a terrific debut. Singularly enjoyable.' - Kirkus (starred review)

`How can you resist a love story in which the object of desire is named Mr. Disgusting? 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 Little Children

`A dark and quirky account of heartbroken Mona, who finds her place among New Mexico's off-beat misfits.' - Stylist Magazine

`Beagin's work has been compared to Denis Johnson, which is high praise indeed, and totally deserved based on this smart, funny, darkly profound debut.' - Nylon

`Pretend I'm Dead is a funny, smart and surprisingly deep novel that lures the reader - through humour and sharp, off-beat observation - to follow a character to rock bottom. Beagin's uncanny characters and wise voice lend a cushion for taking a seat on that rock, providing the company of a good friend so that readers will be glad to stay.' - Caoilinn Hughes, author of Orchid & the Wasp

`Mona is one of the best characters I have read recently. She's damaged for sure but hilarious and forthright and fascinating. I loved this book and can't wait to read more from the author, highly recommend this. A completely fresh voice.' - Lesley Scott, Waterstones bookseller

`One of the most anticipated literary debuts of the year... Pretend I'm Dead traces a cleaning woman's journey to self-acceptance in alternately warm, sharp, and deeply wise fashion.' - Entertainment Weekly

`Eat, Pray, Love meets Beauty And The Beast.' - Cosmopolitan

`Jen Beagin has one of the freshest voices I've read in years-funny, wise, whip-smart and compassionate. I tore through Pretend I'm Dead with a deep sense of affection for all of its beautifully flawed characters and their bittersweet lives.' - Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

`This book is Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine on acid. Odd, funny... Just excellent!' - Sara Wingfield, Goodreads

`Beagin's debut is grungy and ribald, melancholic and funny. Throw in a little wisdom, schmaltz and a few useful housekeeping tips, and Pretend I'm Dead delivers a real bang for the buck.' - Shelf Awareness

`If nuanced, funny, dark, utterly unpretentious literature is your drug of choice, Jen Beagin's Pretend I'm Dead constitutes an epic score. Please enjoy responsibly.' - Elisa Albert, author of After Birth

`Pretend I'm Dead is utterly engaging, laugh-out-loud funny, and always compelling. Each sentence is alive, vibrant and quaking...fearless and bold.' - Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Wonder Bread Summer

`Funny, supremely candid, this debut hurt me perfectly on every page.' - Ron Carlson, author of Return to Oakpine

`Sharp and witty.' - Strong Words

`Pretend I'm Dead is funny, weird, disturbing, and just a touch magical. Jen Beagin's novel will stare you down, mesmerize you, and dare you to laugh.' - Annie Hartnett, author of Rabbit Cake

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781786074942
Publication date: 07/02/2019
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781786074942
Publication date: 7th February 2019
Author: Jen Beagin
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 240 pages
Genres: Relationship Stories,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945), Addiction & therapy,

About Jen Beagin

Jen Beagin holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, and has published stories in Juked and Faultline, among other journals and literary magazines. In 2017, she was awarded a prestigious Whiting Award for her debut novel Pretend I'm Dead. She lives in New York.

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