Pretend I'm Dead

A Novel

Pretend I'm Dead

Shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

Miranda July meets Mary Karr in this brilliant debut novel from Jen Beagin, Whiting Award winner and “one of the freshest voices I've read in years—funny, wise, whip-smart and compassionate” (Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins), about a cleaning lady on a quest for self-acceptance after her relationship with a loveable junkie goes awry.

Jen Beagin’s quirky, moving, “frank and unflinching” (Josh Ferris) debut novel introduces an unforgettable character, Mona—almost twenty-four, emotionally adrift, and cleaning houses to get by. Handing out clean needles to drug addicts, she falls for a recipient she calls Mr. Disgusting, who proceeds to break her heart in unimaginable ways.

In search of healing, Mona decamps to Taos, New Mexico, for a fresh start, where she finds a community of seekers and cast-offs, all of whom have one or two things to teach her—the pajama-wearing, blissed-out New Agers, the slightly creepy client with peculiar tastes in controlled substances, the psychic who might really be psychic. But always lurking just beneath the surface are her memories of growing up in a chaotic, destructive family from which she’s trying to disentangle herself, and the larger legacy of the past she left behind.

The story of Mona’s journey to find her place in this working-class American world is at once hilarious and wonderfully strange, true to life and boldly human, and introduces a stunningly one-of-a-kind new voice in American fiction.
  • Scribner | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501183935 | 
  • May 2018
List Price $24.00 (price may vary by retailer)
In Stock: Usually ships within 1 business day
Buy from another retailer

Videos

Hear an Excerpt

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Pretend I’m Dead includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Mona—almost twenty-four, emotionally adrift, and cleaning houses to get by—meets Mr. Disgusting, a drug addict who proceeds to break her heart in unimaginable ways. In search of healing, Mona decamps for Taos, New Mexico, where she finds a community of seekers and castoffs, all of whom have one or two things to teach her—the pajama-wearing, blissed-out New Agers; the slightly creepy client with peculiar tastes in controlled substances; the psychic who might really be psychic. But always lurking just beneath the surface are her memories of growing up in a chaotic, destructive family from which she’s trying to disentangle herself, and the larger legacy of the past she left behind.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Beagin is a former cleaning lady, and draws on some of her own experiences cleaning houses to color the material. Does knowing that affect the way you view Mona?

2. “Names are powerful,” Betty tells Mona on page 218. Is it significant that Mona constantly names and renames people and things see more

About the Author

Jen Beagin
Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Jen Beagin

Jen Beagin holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, and is a recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award in fiction. She is the author of Pretend I'm Dead and Vacuum in the Dark. A former cleaning lady, she lives in Hudson, New York.

BECOME A FAN

Explore

CONNECT WITH US