Published by Penguin on June 21, 2022
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Horror, Literary, Magical Realism
Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh is disturbing and wild. The dark and twisted events in Moshfegh’s latest work were right up my alley. The novel gave me A24 horror movie vibes, specifically Robert Eggers’ The Witch. Nearly every character in Lapvona is unlikeable. I did not leave the story feeling good about humanity. The novel is a wonderful hodgepodge of genres: horror, magical realism, fantasy, and historical fiction.
Lapvona takes place in a medieval village where life is extremely rough. Marek is the motherless son of Jude, a shepherd. Jude is abusive to Marek and has an intense attachment to his sheep. In the forest lives a witchy, blind woman named Ina (my favorite character), who has nursed many of the village’s children, including Marek. The lord of the village, Villiam, is deranged and supported by the problematic village priest, Father Barnabas. Marek goes to live in Villiam’s wealthy home after an unexpected tragedy. Meanwhile the villagers suffer from the effects of a harsh drought.
I realize the above synopsis is vague, but I do not want to spoil all the shocking WTF moments in the story. This book is not for everyone, but fans of horror will be pleased. Nothing is off limits in this highly irreverent book. I really enjoyed Moshfegh’s writing. Her word choice is clear and direct without superfluous phrases, making Lapvona a fast read. I struggled to find significant themes or the point of this novel. But I do think the story works as a criticism of the United States government. I found the buffoonery of Villiam to be very reminiscent of President number 45. Villiam has no concern for the well being of his people and spends his free time doing outrageous stunts. The contrast between the those living in Villiam’s manor and the starving villagers reminded me of the disconnect between the US government and the people it serves. Ina is an amazing character. Her arc is fantastic, and I wish more of the book had been told from her perspective.
Overall, I enjoyed the shocking moments of Lapvona and its overall vibe. I wish the book was more focused or had clearer themes. I felt like much of Moshfegh’s message went over my head. Or perhaps she just wanted to write a book with loads of shock value? Nonetheless, I certainly plan on checking out more of Ottessa Moshfegh’s books soon.