It was Janine Stromboni, an old acquaintance from high school, one of the few girls Mona had liked, even though they’d had zero in common. Janine looked much the same: huge hair, liquid eyeliner, fake nails, tight jeans.Read more.
Pretend I’m Dead
Mona is newly 24, but her experiences could already fill a lifetime. A housecleaner by day and volunteer at the local needle exchange by night, she soon finds herself wearing blush, a push-up bra, and leopard print to get the attention of one of her city’s resident addicts.
When the affair goes awry, Mona does not get a dog, see a therapist, or employ any responsible adult coping mechanism, really. Instead, she pulls “what the 12-steppers call a geographic: she moves to a new town in another state without telling anyone”. The high deserts of New Mexico seem tailored to fit eccentrics like her. Mona never quite settles in, however; the events leading to her abrupt departure continually play out in her mind’s eye. Pretend I’m Dead takes Thomas Wolfe’s over-quoted platitude and turns it on its head: of course you can go home again. Many of us do, over and over again, in our memories and twisted imaginations.
While full of quirky and idiosyncratic moments and characters, Jen Beagin’s Pretend I’m Dead is also attuned to deep heartbreak. As Mona realizes, “Who knew it could be so gratifying—so exhilarating—to destroy something you love, to ruin it for anyone else?”
Pretend I’m Dead was originally published by Northwestern University Press in 2015.