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About The Book


Named a Best Book of the Year by the New Yorker, Time, NPR, Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, NBC News, Lit Hub, theSkimm, Condé Nast Traveler, Town & Country, and more!

“One of the funniest books of the last few years” (Los Angeles Times) about a sex therapist’s transcriptionist and her affair with one of the patients.

Greta lives with her friend Sabine in an ancient Dutch farmhouse in Hudson, New York. The house is unrenovated, uninsulated, and full of bees. Greta spends her days transcribing therapy sessions for a sex coach who calls himself Om. She becomes infatuated with his newest client, a repressed married woman she affectionately refers to as Big Swiss.

One day, Greta recognizes Big Swiss’s voice in town and they quickly become enmeshed. While Big Swiss is unaware Greta has eavesdropped on her most intimate exchanges, Greta has never been more herself with anyone. Her attraction to Big Swiss overrides her guilt, and she’ll do anything to sustain the relationship…

“A fantastic, weird-as-hell, super funny novel” (Bustle), Big Swiss is both a love story and a deft examination of infidelity, mental health, sexual stereotypes, and more—from an amazingly talented, singular voice in contemporary fiction.

Reading Group Guide

Greta lives with her friend Sabine in an eighteenth-century bee-infested farmhouse in Hudson, New York, where she works as a transcriptionist for a sex therapist called Om. Greta becomes obsessed with one of his clients, whom she nicknames Big Swiss, a repressed married woman with a history of trauma. At a chance meeting, Greta introduces herself under a fake name. The two feel an almost immediate intimacy, and an enmeshed friendship quickly leads to an intense affair. But Greta can’t bring herself to reveal the truth about her identity . . . and neither of them can seem to escape the events and people of their past.

Exploring themes of mental health and infidelity, sexual stereotypes and romantic obsession, Big Swiss is a dark, funny love story about what happens when sparks unexpectedly fly.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. Greta signed an NDA when she started working for Om, but she sometimes tells her roommate Sabine about the sessions she transcribes. Why do you think she does this? If you were in Greta’s situation, would you be tempted to discuss information like this with a close friend or partner?

2. When Greta encounters some of Om’s clients in Hudson, she thinks, “They were as familiar as characters from a novel” (page 90), and when she meets Big Swiss, “Greta felt an immediate intimacy, in the same way her favorite podcast hosts sometimes felt like friends” (page 118). What do you think of these kinds of one-sided (also called “parasocial”) relationships in the novel and in your own life? Do you think it’s possible for them to ever develop into mutual ones?

3. “I’m not good at playing the passive female,” Big Swiss tells Om when recounting her traumatic experience with Keith (page 71). Do you think this is true of her character? What about Greta’s?

4. How does Greta handle hearing Flavia reveal personal information that she already knows? Have you ever had to listen to someone tell you something private that you already knew? How did you react?

5. Greta says Flavia is the reason she rediscovered “her own appetite” (page 174). Discuss the connections between desire, obsession, sexual satisfaction, and romantic love in the novel. How does Greta and Flavia’s relationship compare to the relationships they’ve had with men?

6. Discuss the representation of bisexuality and queer identity in the novel. What stereotypes does it explore or dispel? How do Greta and Flavia think about their own sexual identities? About each other’s?

7. Did you notice any generational differences between Flavia (a millennial) and Greta (a Gen Xer)? How do their own opinions about the other’s age impact their relationship?

8. During an infamous dinner party, Luke tells Greta and Flavia to “please stop bickering like . . . sisters,” to which Flavia remarks, “We’re more like mother and daughter” (page 220). Do you agree with either scenario? If the latter, who do you think is the “mother” figure and who is the “daughter”?

9. When Greta apologizes, Flavia tells her: “I don’t accept apologies. Sorry is just something you take off a shelf. It means nothing to me” (page 252). What did you think of this response? Is there something else Greta should do to earn Flavia’s forgiveness?

10. Discuss the presentation of trauma in the novel and the different ways Greta and Flavia deal with what they’ve experienced. Greta references her mother’s suicide as a reason for the decisions she’s made, but Flavia retorts that she would never blame her choices on her traumas. Do you agree with her, or do you think we are conditioned by past events to behave in certain ways? How did the novel’s humor affect your experience reading about these heavy topics?

11. What did you think about the character of Om, and his therapy practice? Did any of his advice or methods seem to help his patients? Revisit his final session in chapter 20; did you think his assessment of trauma and the healing journey was accurate?

12. Discuss the following quote: “Greta was just beginning to understand that human relationships were pure folly, because nothing was ever perfectly mutual. One person always liked or loved the other person a little more than they were liked or loved, and sometimes it was a lot more, and sometimes the tables turned and you found yourself on the other side, but it was never, ever equal, and that was pretty much the only thing you could count on in life” (page 286). Do you agree? How has this dynamic played out in Greta’s relationships with Stacy, Sabine, Flavia, and others?

13. Consider the nonhuman characters in the book—bees and maggots, dogs and donkeys. What do they do for the story, literally as well as metaphorically? Did you have a favorite animal?

14. “We’re both guilty,” Greta tells Flavia. “I signed a confidentiality agreement, but I’m not married” (page 254). How are the topics of infidelity and ethics explored in the book? By the end, how does each woman feel about the choices she made?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Read Jen Beagin’s novels Pretend I’m Dead and Vacuum in the Dark, which follow a young cleaning woman named Mona on a journey of self-acceptance. How does Mona compare to Greta?

2. Spend some time on the Hudson, New York, tourism website: Does it match how you pictured the town based on the descriptions in the novel?

3. Take an online transcription test or record and transcribe a short snippet of conversation. How did you do? Did the experience change your understanding of the transcription scenes in the novel?

About The Author

Photograph by Franco Vogt

Jen Beagin holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, and is a recipient of a Whiting Award in fiction. Her first novel Pretend I’m Dead was shortlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and Vacuum in the Dark was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction. She is also the author of Big Swiss. She lives in Hudson, New York.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (February 7, 2023)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982153106

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Raves and Reviews

"Sexy and darkly funny, at its core this novel turns preconceived notions about mental health, obsession, and trauma upside down." —Rachel Sonis, Time's Must-Read Books of 2023

"A hilarious, dark and quirky coming-of-middle-age story." —NPR, Best Books of 2023

“One of the funniest books of the last few years. . . . Beagin may sooner be hotter than a farm-to-table restaurant in a bougie upstate town, but her work will be around much longer. . . . both timely and ultimately transcendent.” —The Los Angeles Times

“It's wild, it's hilarious, and it's so good.”—Cosmopolitan, Best Books of 2023 (So Far)

"An incredible book. . . I couldn't put it down." —Jodie Comer

"The funniest fiction I’ve read all year... This deliciously eccentric sex comedy bristles with wit and weirdness, but beneath all the antics is a tender heart." —Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker

"A zany, raunchy, dark novel about a transcriptionist and her explosive love affair that's incredibly well-written and very smart about the weirdness of human nature.” —Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Romantic Comedy

"Wild and inventive . . . Beagin’s book is funny, dark, and dives into the messiness of infidelity, desires, and sexual stereotypes, all told through her two tortured protagonists." —Huffington Post, Best Books of 2023

“A fantastic, weird-as-hell, super funny novel.” Bustle

“[Beagin’s] most exciting book yet . . . [an] idiosyncratic love story . . . wrenching and hilarious.”—New York Magazine

“Always interesting and frequently hilarious . . . the ride is too fun to stop.” —Anthony Breznican, Vanity Fair

"Darkly comic." —New Yorker, Best Books of 2023

"Beagin writes with a zany, overflowing energy. . . . Big Swiss is a comic novel, but it is one with a very tender core." —Vogue, Best Books of 2023

“Beagin may have found the best vehicle yet for her nihilist whimsy.” —Entertainment Weekly, Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2023

"Weird and horny and unfettered in all the best ways." —The Millions, Most Anticipated Books of 2023

“Beagin’s black comedy is a laugh-out-loud bad romance for Gen Xers and an ode to misfits who just want to belong. . . . If you have a weakness for gossip, this clever and sneakily insightful book is all about the guilty pleasure of peering into other people's private lives.” —Oprah Daily

"Outlandish . . . quirky, darkly humorous. . . . One of the biggest literary hits of 2023." —Times Union

“Erotic cottagecore as only Jen Beagin can do it.” Electric Lit

“Delightfully bizarre, darkly humorous . . . the story’s oddity is as beguiling as the voyeuristic itch it scratches." —Wall Street Journal

"This funny, offbeat story asks questions about telling the truth, falling in love, and who we really are when no one else is looking—or so we think." Town & Country, Best Books of 2023 (So Far) "This unconventional love story has a surplus of appeal from page one."Publishers Weekly "Beagin returns with another wonderfully off-kilter protagonist. . . . Big Swiss establishes her place among artfully eccentric writers like Nell Zink, Elif Batuman, and Jennifer Egan." Kirkus Big Swiss is a dark party; a hilarious romp through new age pop psychology, romantic obsession, sapphic acrobatics, dogs, and the desire to end it all. Beagin’s voice is an engine all its own, and I delighted in this cynical, sexy, hopeless, hopeful, Hudson Valley jubilee. Come for the bees, stay for the donkeys!”Melissa Broder, author of Milk Fed "I chugged this book! Pick it up because you like cheese, stay for the brilliant sentences. Beagin channels everything evil, hot, intimate, and funny about spying on people while secretly hoping to get caught. By the end you’ll be so in love you’ll want to move to Hudson yourself, no matter how messy it gets." Beth Morgan, author of A Touch of Jen

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