*Starred Review* Beagin's standalone second novel continues the story, begun in Pretend I'm Dead (2015), of twentysomething Mona, who works cleaning houses in Taos and keeps up a running conversation with NPR's Terry Gross in the form of a voice inside her head. In the home of one client, a blind therapist Mona met while out for a run, Mona falls in love with her boss's husband, whom she calls Dark, and finds disturbing offerings of human poop. When that arrangement goes south, Mona keeps house for a Hungarian artist couple who hire her additionally as a model, ply her with drugs, and lead her to uncover repressed memories of unpleasant attention from her long-deceased grandfather. These homes and their inhabitants and discoveries function as life-size dioramas of Mona's psyche until a somewhat welcome invitation brings her back to an altogether different but no less loaded abode, the California apartment Mona's mom is now vacating. Inventing situations and conversations that are off-the-charts in both weirdness and relatability, Beagin fashions an enchantingly intriguing main character in unfiltered, warmhearted Mona. This story of a woman embracing life's what-ifs and her own darkness is a great read-alike for Melissa Broder's The Pisces (2018). Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.
Library Journal Reviews
Whiting Award winner Beagin got good attention when she debuted recently with Pretend I'm Dead, about cleaning woman Mona's struggles with life and love. Here, Mona has acquired another bad boyfriend, a client's husband she nicknames Dark. With a multicity tour.
Copyright 2018 Library Journal.
Library Journal Reviews
Mona is a young woman with some mental health issues. Last seen in Beagin's debut novel, Pretend I'm Dead, she's still cleaning houses in Taos for a living after her junkie boyfriend, Mr. Disgusting, has died of an overdose. As she scrubs and vacuums, Mona listens to the voice (in her head) of NPR's Terry Gross, who is like a wise imaginary best friend to her. (Speaking of gross, those who are easily grossed out might want to skim over the first chapter, titled "Poop.") Meanwhile, Mona is soon involved with another bad-news guy she calls Dark, the husband of one of her clients, a blind woman. While on a trip home to Los Angeles, Mona bonds with an upstairs neighbor during a minor earthquake, and her life takes another turn. Though the self-destructive Mona may eventually get her act together, the madcap comic bits here float over the surface of the novel's murky depths, where lurks the usual story of deeply dysfunctional families, abuse, and the resulting trauma. VERDICT This sad, startling, and disturbing novel is best appreciated by readers who like edgy stories with dark humor. [See Prepub Alert, 8/6/18.]—Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA
Copyright 2018 Library Journal.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Beagin's sharp and superb novel finds Mona, from previous novel Pretend I'm Dead, now 26, living in Taos, N.Mex., having followed the dying wishes of her ex-boyfriend, a man she met at a needle exchange and called Mr. Disgusting. Mona cleans houses for a living, shares a ranch house with an older married couple she calls Yoko and Yoko, and claims Fresh Air's Terry Gross as imaginary friend-slash-therapist. Prone to falling in love with her clients' furniture and taking advantage of their absences to create a series of photographic portraits in their homes, Mona often breaches the professional distance between her and her clients. There's the beautiful and blind therapist Rose, who has given Mona leave to conduct an affair with her husband, whom Mona has nicknamed Dark, and there's Hungarian artists Lena and Paul, who ask Mona to model for them. Deadpan and savage, Mona has a dark and complicated history she is not afraid to weaponize. When Mona's mother asks Mona to return to the apartment where she grew up in L.A., Mona must come to terms both with her difficult past and where she can go from here. Beagin pulls no punches—this novel is viciously smart and morbidly funny. (Feb.)
Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.
A young house cleaner in New Mexico balances a bad, junkie boyfriend with a bad, unstable boyfriend who happens to be married to one of her clients as she embarks on an eccentric journey of self-discovery and redemption. - (Baker & Taylor)
When Mona finds herself with another bad boyfriend and clients that remind her of troubling aspects of her past, she begins a journey of self-discovery that takes her back to the home she grew up in. - (Baker & Taylor)
From the Whiting Award-winning author of Pretend I’m Dead and one of the most exhilarating new voices in fiction, a new hilarious, edgy, and brilliant one-of-a-kind novel about a cleaning lady named Mona and her struggles to move forward in life.
Mona is twenty-six and cleans houses for a living in Taos, New Mexico. She moved there mostly because of a bad boyfriend—a junkie named Mr. Disgusting, long story—and her efforts to restart her life since haven’t exactly gone as planned. For one thing, she’s got another bad boyfriend. This one she calls Dark, and he happens to be married to one of Mona’s clients. He also might be a little unstable.
Dark and his wife aren’t the only complicated clients on Mona’s roster, either. There’s also the Hungarian artist couple who—with her addiction to painkillers and his lingering stares—reminds Mona of troubling aspects of her childhood, and some of the underlying reasons her life had to be restarted in the first place. As she tries to get over the heartache of her affair and the older pains of her youth, Mona winds up on an eccentric, moving journey of self-discovery that takes her back to her beginnings where she attempts to unlock the key to having a sense of home in the future.
The only problems are Dark and her past. Neither is so easy to get rid of.
A constantly surprising, laugh-out-loud funny novel about an utterly unique woman dealing with some of the most universal issues in America today, Vacuum in the Dark is an unforgettable, astonishing read from one of the freshest voices in fiction today. - (Simon and Schuster)