The book feints toward an Ottessa Moshfegh–style ennui, the kind of tragic vision that disguises itself as satire. But Oval has a warm center in Anja, who is friendlier, more approachable, less alienating and alienated than the typical Moshfegh heroine . . . [Anja] is finely observed and solid, capable of both banter and feeling . . . When Wilk examines social behavior, her attention snags in all the right places . . . Like Oedipus or Othello, characters in Oval can neither alter their destiny nor anticipate its shape. Yet Wilk entwines a classical sensibility with biological determinism—she almost suggests that humans have reached the final phase of a natural decomposition process, like cells programmed to grow and then atrophy.
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