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Big Swiss: A Novel (Paperback)
Oh, MAN, what a delight of a book. Parasocial relationships are big right now in the cultural vernacular, and Jen Beagin’s masterpiece of a novel explores a relationship that “parasocial” only begins to describe. Forty-five-year-old Greta, who still hasn’t really processed her mother’s suicide, has recently ended her engagement and moved across the country with her dog, Piñon, to live in an 18th century unheated Dutch farmhouse in Hudson, New York. Her roommates are Sabine, an old friend who sells homemade edibles out of the kitchen, and a hive of sixty thousand bees that live beneath the floor of Greta’s bedroom. Greta spends her days as a transcriptionist for a local sex therapist and finds herself becoming obsessed with one of his patients, a woman with a voice “like a blade,” to whom she refers as Big Swiss. When, entirely by chance, she runs into Big Swiss at the dog park, she accidentally-on-purpose gives her a fake name, and in doing so is launched into a whole relationship based on a lie. Also, Big Swiss is working through an assault that almost killed her, and her attacker has just been released from jail and may be stalking her.
Normally this sort of manufactured identity/balancing multiple lies/Seinfeld sitcom thing sort of stresses me out, but Jen Beagin is so clever that the worry was never present – it was more of an “I can’t wait to see what’ll happen when this all falls apart” feeling. There were multiple instances where it becomes clear how unreliable of a narrator Greta is, which always thrills me – you spend so much time in the head of your narrator, believing their version of events, and when you happen to catch a glimpse of the objective reality it’s jarring. And this novel is so funny! Each character is hyperspecific and delightful, and the cast of supporting beasts sparkle as well (Piñon, a Jack Russell who tries to perform CPR on dying bees; Silas, a beautiful husky mix who has stolen Piñon’s heart; a pair of mini donkeys who may or may not actually exist). I wish I could erase this book from my brain and read it over again for the first time – it felt like washing my eyes in cold water.
—Grace, Longfellow Books
February 2023 Indie Next List
“Big Swiss is an I-can’t-stop-thinking-about-this kind of book. When I first read the concept, I was shocked, but intrigued. Now that I’ve read the book, I want everyone else to share in my cringing, laughing, and heart palpitations.”
— Lily Sadighmehr, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA
NATIONAL BESTSELLER AND CULT FAVORITE
“Wild…hilarious…so good.” —Cosmopolitan, Best Books of the Year * “A laugh-out-loud bad romance for Gen Xers and an ode to misfits who just want to belong.” —Oprah Daily * “Always interesting…too fun to stop.” —Vanity Fair
“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.
About the Author
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.
“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
“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
"Beagin writes with a zany, overflowing energy. . . . Big Swiss is a comic novel, but it is one with a very tender core." —Vogue, Most Anticipated 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