Rouge: A Novel (Hardcover)
September 2023 Indie Next List
“We all have complicated relationships with family; this book holds a mirror up to a mother-daughter relationship. Obsessed with beauty, this spiral of grief wraps around your throat and you’ll gasp for breath! So raw and superbly genius.”
— Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC
From the critically acclaimed author of Bunny comes a horror-tinted, gothic fairy tale about a lonely dress shop clerk whose mother’s unexpected death sends her down a treacherous path in pursuit of youth and beauty. Can she escape her mother’s fate—and find a connection that is more than skin deep?
For as long as she can remember, Belle has been insidiously obsessed with her skin and skincare videos. When her estranged mother Noelle mysteriously dies, Belle finds herself back in Southern California, dealing with her mother’s considerable debts and grappling with lingering questions about her death. The stakes escalate when a strange woman in red appears at the funeral, offering a tantalizing clue about her mother’s demise, followed by a cryptic video about a transformative spa experience. With the help of a pair of red shoes, Belle is lured into the barbed embrace of La Maison de Méduse, the same lavish, culty spa to which her mother was devoted. There, Belle discovers the frightening secret behind her (and her mother’s) obsession with the mirror—and the great shimmering depths (and demons) that lurk on the other side of the glass.
Snow White meets Eyes Wide Shut in this surreal descent into the dark side of beauty, envy, grief, and the complicated love between mothers and daughters. With black humor and seductive horror, Rouge explores the cult-like nature of the beauty industry—as well as the danger of internalizing its pitiless gaze. Brimming with California sunshine and blood-red rose petals, Rouge holds up a warped mirror to our relationship with mortality, our collective fixation with the surface, and the wondrous, deep longing that might lie beneath.
— The Guardian, Fall’s Most Anticipated Reads
“Mona Awad’s seductive fourth novel looks at the complicated relationships between mothers, daughters, and their mirrors…[a] surreal gothic tale.”
— Time, “36 Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2023”
“An edgy fable on the perils of our modern fascination with beauty.”
“A surrealist take on the myth of Demeter and Persephone…Rouge points to many discomforting truths about being a woman in the 21st century, which can sometimes feel an awful lot like gothic horror. Awad doesn’t let us off the hook in our willingness to consume and be consumed, in our inability to see beyond our glass coffins.”
— Megan O’Grady, The New York Times Book Review
“Awad’s latest is a dreamy (or perhaps nightmarish) gothic fairy tale about a mother, a daughter, and their shared obsession with their own beauty. Like all of Awad’s novels, it reels you in, shakes your brain until you’re not sure what you’re seeing, and then floats off cackling on a cloud of smoke. Metaphorically, that is. I’d forgive you for not being sure.”
— LitHub, “Most Anticipated Books of 2023”
"Surreal, archetypal, and totally hypnotic.”
— Bustle, “The 35 Best New Books of Fall 2023”
“Mona Awad, I will read everything you ever write. She is a writer of unbelievable talent.”
“[A] hypnotic tour de force…Awad approaches the increasingly well-trod ground of sinister wellness gurus with aplomb, creating an atmosphere of creeping discomfort and surreality right from the start. This is the stuff of fairy tales—red shoes, ballrooms, mirrors, and thorns but also sincerity, poignancy, and terror.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“At a time in history when beauty routines drain souls and time, Mona Awad has fashioned a smart, page-turning mystery about a young woman besotted by all things skincare. In elegant prose, Rouge digs through the tormented love that can both bind and estrange a mother and her daughter, and a body from a deeper self. Awad is one of those literary juggernauts to read every word of. Rouge is a triumph, deep and riveting, profound and terrifying. I couldn’t put it down.”
— Mary Karr, New York Times bestselling author of The Liar’s Club and Cherry
“A brilliant, biting critique of western beauty standards as well as a soaring, phantasmagoric, Angela Carter-esque fairy tale about trauma and the loss of self. Rouge is deeply unsettling, funny, obsessive, and unlike anything I've read. A truly mesmerizing read.”
— Paul Tremblay, author of The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts