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Big Swiss


Big Swiss

“Listen, I became infatuated with one of Om’s clients, a married woman in her twenties, and I recognized her voice at the dog park, and now we’re having an affair, but she doesn’t know who I am or what my real name is, and she’s being stalked by a psychopath who just got out of prison, and I had dinner at her house with her husband last night, but I think we might be in love?”

This breathless and detail-dense sentence is never said aloud in Jen Beagin’s latest novel, BIG SWISS. Instead it is the mental rehearsal of a confession of sorts by the reckless, eccentric, lonely and charming protagonist.

"BIG SWISS is laugh-out-loud funny yet darkly tragic.... Beagin has such a unique and creative voice, capturing both the humor and horror of complicated adult life."

Greta recently left her longtime partner and her job as a pharmacy tech, and moved across the country to live in a dilapidated farmhouse in Hudson, New York, with an old friend named Sabine. She is now working as a transcriptionist for a local sex therapist, Om, who seemingly treats the entire small-town population. In transcribing the sessions of an enigmatic lady who she nicknames Big Swiss, 40-something Greta becomes obsessed with the woman behind the voice. A chance but really remarkable encounter brings them together, and the attraction seems instantaneous.

While Greta tells Big Swiss (whose real name is Flavia) that her name is Rebecca, she doesn’t lie about much else. In fact, Greta-as-Rebecca shares more with Big Swiss than she has with just about anyone else. From her mother’s suicide to her adolescence with extended family, from her aimless career path to her failed relationships, Greta bares just about all.

Their affair is joyfully lusty but also emotionally intense. Both women have trauma in their pasts that they have yet to fully deal with, and it is not always easy for them to see that their relationship is a less than healthy distraction that may result in ripples of harm.  Neither woman is caring for themselves, or their other relationships, as they should. Big Swiss is indeed being stalked by a dangerous man, and Greta is threatening her own livelihood by spending time with Big Swiss. The house that Greta lives in is not fit to inhabit, and Big Swiss is lying to her husband. Beagin packs all of this and more --- dogs, bees, miniature donkeys, and a town of earnest artists and makers --- into this fantastic story.

BIG SWISS is laugh-out-loud funny yet darkly tragic. Here is an account of two damaged women, their own worst enemies, who are skilled at mixing up the physical and the emotional, confronting their fears in creative ways, and ignoring what hurts them even when they can’t stop talking about it. Beagin has such a unique and creative voice, capturing both the humor and horror of complicated adult life.

Alternately scathing and delicate, swinging between raunchy and tender, BIG SWISS is an original, bittersweet, outrageous, tongue-in-cheek and totally serious look at love and forgiveness, and the ways that even the oldest sorrows can be healed.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on February 17, 2023

Big Swiss
by Jen Beagin

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 1982153091
  • ISBN-13: 9781982153090