ABOUT THE BOOK
Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her.
But Anna can’t easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds that it’s difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back.
5 out of 5 stars
This modern retelling of Anna Karenina explores the inner workings of a woman’s mind when she feels trapped in a world that she cannot fit into. Anna is bored and lonely and struggles to make connections with the people or places of her new home. Throughout the novel, we follow Anna on her journey to find and lose herself.
Essbaum has created a perfectly imperfect character in Anna. Her impulses and dilemmas are so tragically human that we cannot help but relate to her on the deepest level. The erratic telling of the story wonderfully parallels Anna’s frayed emotions and attempts to make sense of her own passions and desires. The interspersed psycho analytic sessions make for an interesting narrative in which we see the character through the eyes of a professional while still being completely submerged in her personal thoughts and actions.
Containing a seamless combination of eroticism and hopelessness, Essbaum’s Hausfrau is a brilliantly written and beautifully executed tale of a woman on the brink of despair. This story is striking especially because it provides a sharp and heart-rending view into the life of someone living with depression. Although Anna’s life may seem enviable to others, we see that things are rarely as they appear, and everyone is carrying some kind of burden invisible to everyone else around them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jill Alexander Essbaum is the author of several collections of poetry, and her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, as well as its sister anthology, The Best American Erotic Poems: From 1800 to the Present. She is a winner of he Bakeless Poetry Prize and recipient of two NEA literature fellowships. A member of the core faculty of the Low Residency MFA at the University of California, Riverside, she lives and writes in Austin, Texas.