What happens when a frail old woman self-isolates for months on end, her only contact with fellow humans a weekly trip to the grocery store? This is the question posed by Ottessa Moshfegh in her new novel – one that has recently become pertinent for us all.
Vesta Gul, the narrator of Death in Her Hands, has moved to a remote house in Middle America following the death of her husband. It’s a narrow life. Each day, she makes an optimistic list: ‘Walk. Breakfast. Garden. Lunch. Boat. Hammock. Wine. Puzzle. Bath. Dinner. Read. Bed.’ She tends to abandon the programme halfway through, but each morning writes it out again.
Solitude is a challenge. When a great-aunt of mine turned ninety-four a few years ago, she came to believe – thanks in no small part to the Daily Mail – that ISIS had secretly invaded her Cotswold village. A deft GP was able to persuade her that these beliefs were