The PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work—a novel or collection of short stories—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise. The winner receives a cash award of $25,000, a stipend intended to permit a significant degree of leisure in which to pursue a second work of literary fiction.

See the complete longlist @ PEN AMERICA


Bildungsroman in the Postmodern Era

“In Wreck and Order, Buddhist practice and postmodern self-scrutiny turn out to be oddly close cousins. Elsie reveals not only all of her desires and neuroses but also her analyses of these mental currents, her inquiry into how they might appear to an outside observer. … [A] no-holds-barred account of a young female body and what it feels, what it likes to feel, and what it doesn’t. It is refreshing to be in the company of a woman who is comfortable with her own sexuality, […] Tennant-Moore’s writing of sex — whether messy, awkward, sad, or intensely satisfying — can be admirably intimate and realistic.”

Read more @ The Los Angeles Review of Books



Wreck and Order

Elsie's in a rut. Stuck at a dead-end newspaper job and in a rocky relationship with her abusive boyfriend, she decides to take a dramatic step to change paths. Instead of attending college, she journeys to Paris and Sri Lanka to create her own form of education, where she meets an assortment of characters who teach, mold and challenge her to examine her own choices and actions head on.

Read @ Harper's Bazaar


Spring Books Guide

Once upon a time, in fiction—as in life—women had to behave themselves in order to be “likable.” This spring’s standout debut novels celebrate lost girls in the big city—young, adrift, and ready to do anything to make their mark.

A trip to Sri Lanka provides no easy redemption for the wayward heroine of Hannah Tennant-Moore’s Wreck and Order (Hogarth), who speaks to 20-something motivations—“lust, rage, lust, rage”—with outspoken feminism and rueful honesty: “I felt I could handle the wrong choices now, that I could live the old life in a new way.”

Read @ Vogue


[Tennant-Moore's] ability to write one quotable sentence after another astounded me. Sentences like: “The careful way he courted me felt like grace, like something mysterious was finally pushing my life in the right direction.” The novel is chaotic, too. If not for the crystal clear sentences and Tennant-Moore’s ability to “go there,” I am not sure I would have trusted the narrator as a guide. The book wanders without a clear destination in sight. Elsie’s lack of evolution made me wonder why I was reading. Why should I care about Elsie? Why this particular slice of her life? What lesson was being learned? I found myself hoping that something good would come from all of the searching and suffering and the doomed decisions. But maybe the lesson is just that—there is no necessary redemption. Sometimes you go to Sri Lanka (twice) and return in the end to the same apartment, with the same alcoholic boyfriend and attend the same parties while working the same job. Perhaps the point is: beautiful sentences, woman imbued with her own suffering, change not inevitable.

Read the full review by Genevieve Hudson @ The Rumpus




In Hannah Tennant-Moore’s dark, incisive first novel, the narrator, Elsie Shore, is a recent high school graduate with a small inheritance. Now she can do what she wants with her life: nothing. Directionless and numb, she decides against college, not wanting “to sit in class with a bunch of morons.” Instead, she travels impulsively: Paris, Sri Lanka and California, where she drinks too much and acquires an abusive boyfriend, Jared, who hits her when they have sex. “I wanted bruises,” she says, “empirical proof of the destructiveness of emotions.” In New York City, she clings to a “willfully boring” web designer, Brian, wondering if the tedium of marriage might suit her. With her flat, hypnotic voice, recklessness and inability to shape a future for herself, Elsie calls to mind Joan Didion’s Maria Wyeth in Play It as It Lays.

Read @ The New York Times



Sometimes you have to tear it all down to really start over—at least, that's the case for the protagonist of Tennant-Moore's boundary-pushing debut novel, which finds its somewhat self-destructive heroine on a journey that could be read as the darker side of Eat, Pray, Love. As Elsie travels through Paris and Sri Lanka, her struggle to figure out her path in life is portrayed in starkly honest and frank prose, like these musings from one of her early meditation sessions:

Read @ BookPage


BOOKS | 22 February 2016 Issue

This astute, restless début novel follows Elsie, a “pretty, damaged woman” in her twenties, who is confronting “the question of what to do” in life. The novel glows with the malaise of the Bush years: Elsie gets obsessed with Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, and heads to Sri Lanka—“a tropical paradise that was also a recent war zone.” In her wearied pursuit of meaning, she toys with the idea of becoming a translator or a Buddhist nun, an English teacher in a foreign country, a “trophy wife.” Although Elsie makes rash decisions, her thoughts about intimacy and desire are searching and considered, and Tennant-Moore depicts even her most startling fantasies with analytical froideur.

Read @ The New Yorker


debut finds ‘Order’ in youthful chaos

Rating: Three Stars out of Four

By Kelly Lawler

Wreck and Order, the incisive debut novel from Hannah Tennant-Moore (Hogarth, 290 pp), takes a young woman on a journey around the world, from small-town California to Paris to New York to Sri Lanka. It’s full of failed relationships, epiphanies and what can only be termed “finding oneself,” to the point where you may be tempted to call it the Millennial Eat, Pray, Love. But that comparison underserves both stories.

Wreck and Order will make even the messiest 20-something feel her life is together in comparison. Tennant-Moore crafts a realistically flawed, and often distinctly unlikable protagonist in Elsie, the globe-trotting young woman at the center of this novel. Constantly disgusted and angry about the problems in the world (torture, racism, etc.), Elsie struggles with how to “just be a decent person.” Unfortunately she is often so wracked with grief over injustices that she's left paralyzed.

Supported by a rich and tolerant father, Elsie starts her adult life by skipping college and heading off on her own, traveling from place to place until the money starts to run out. Her cash-flow problems are one reason she settles in a small town in California. The other is the allure of small-time drug dealer Jared, with whom Elsie falls into an emotionally abusive relationship.

Trying to escape Jared and the rest of her mildly depressing life (she briefly holds down a job editing obituaries for a local paper), Elsie buys a ticket to Sri Lanka and heads off on her Eastern adventure. Here the novel walks a fine line between its desire to take its character on a journey and the trope of white characters trying to find themselves through the literal and figurative color of exotic lands.

To her credit, Tennant-Moore does not allow Elsie to be transformed by her experience. The world of Sri Lanka does not exist only to serve Elsie’s story. She is, though, able to look at her life with more clarity. “I felt I could handle the wrong choices now, that I could live the old life in a new way,” she says.

Read More @ USA Today


Born of Identification

By John Yargo

In a 2007 essay in Tricycle, Hannah Tennant-Moore wrote about the Buddha’s “Reflections on Repulsiveness.” In the “Reflections,” the Buddha advises his followers to ruminate on the very corporeality of our bodies, down to the “swollen, blue, and festering” bodies in a cemetery. This, Tennant-Moore points out, makes us “aware of all the intricate processes and parts that make up our bodies” so that “we are less likely to identify the overall image as ‘me.’ Disdain for our bodies is, in fact, born out of detachment, not identification.”

That unforgiving process of examining intimately the bare self—dismembered, grotesque, and alien—is dramatized in Tennant-Moore’s strong first novel, Wreck and Order. What, the title asks, is being wrecked and ordered? The contradictory, messy self of a young high-school dropout in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century.

Tennant-Moore’s protagonist is Elsie Shore, a richly drawn character, someone who is impulsively drawn to disaster. As reports of detainee abuse and deep crises in American institutions emerge, Elsie foregoes college and flies off to Europe. (Americans travelling abroad during the Bush regime attracted complex, often-hostile reactions, but Elsie’s travel experiences, unlike the narrator in Leaving the Atocha Station, are fairly commonplace.) She falls into a job editing a magazine in Carpinteria and then quits. Personally, she vacillates between dating a self-destructive emotionally abusive alcoholic and a stable, upper-middle-class, but emotionally withdrawn, professional. Elsie finds refuge in Sri Lanka, which she visits over several years, growing close to a family there.

Her attempts at giving meaning and purpose to her mid-20s are comically thwarted. During her disappointing trip to France, she discovers a French novel, “a monologue of unrequited love for cats, narrated by a forty-year-old bachelor who strolls the Parisian streets seeking out and caring for strays.” She spends the next few years intermittently translating the book into English, submitting the translation to publishers, and then drawering it completely.

I especially admire how the novel gracefully drifts from California to Paris to New York to Sri Lanka. The prose is strong, with threads of melancholic wit and clarity. Tennant-Moore can craft a sentence that explores all the hatched ironies and contradictions within a moment in a life.

Read More @ Fiction Advocate

TRICYCLE, The Buddhist Review

Wreck & Order: A Buddhist Writer’s Fierce Debut Novel

By Carolyn Gregoire

On her 28th birthday, with a newly minted MFA in nonfiction from Bennington College, Hannah Tennant-Moore set off on a two-month backpacking journey in Sri Lanka to spend some time exploring her interest in Buddhism before launching her writing career.

The reflections from that journey set the stage for her daring debut novel Wreck and Order (Hogarth, Feb. 9), an unconventional coming-of-age tale in which the reader follows a damaged woman named Elsie on a decade-plus quest for meaning that takes her from small-town California to New York City, Paris, and Sri Lanka.

But make no mistake: This is no Eat, Pray, Love journey, and a silent retreat in the lush tropics of Sri Lanka does little to enlighten Elsie. Tennant-Moore is too savvy to give in to the empty platitudes of the spiritual journey genre. Instead, she presents a raw and honest exploration of a complicated woman whose suffering is uniquely of her own making—and challenges her readers to honestly confront their own preferred brand of suffering.

Our narrator, Elsie, is a complicated person. She is both wise and ignorant, emotionally intelligent and self-sabotaging. Her depth and perceptiveness are paired with an inability to find any shred of happiness or meaning in her life. Reckless and without ambition, her aimlessness has for years been financially supported by her father, who sends her checks on an as-needed basis from his generous endowment.

Elsie seems unable to find her place in the world. She chooses travel over college, only to spend a miserable year alone in Paris, where she begins working on a translation of an obscure French novel about a man who owns many cats. She finds herself writing obituaries for a small-town California newspaper, and later, stocking books at a New York City Barnes & Noble. For the better part of her 20s, she’s in and out of an abusive relationship with Jared, her philandering, alcoholic drug-dealer boyfriend, whom she ultimately tries to escape by running off to backpack in Sri Lanka. Elsie meanders through life, self-soothing through sex, drinking and drugs, and more sex. (The many descriptions of Elsie’s sexual encounters are explicit and often uncomfortable.)

“It was lonely to be both spoiled and blue collar, just one more way I was a stranger to what most people considered the real world,” Tennant-Moore writes, calling to mind what Shambhala teacher Ethan Nichtern refers to as our modern “commuter mentality”: the feeling of never being at home in the world; moving through life trying to get somewhere but not really knowing where.

Even though she is completely out of context in Sri Lanka, it’s perhaps here that she is most at home, and certainly where Tennant-Moore’s writing shines most. Why Sri Lanka? Elsie was attracted to the country because of its lush beauty and the suffering of its people.

“I liked the idea of going to a tropical paradise that was also a recent war zone,” she says. “I wanted to believe my attraction to other people’s suffering was compassion, but more likely it was a twisted need to justify my own unhappiness.”

Elsie is deeply concerned with the suffering in the world—war, torture, terrorism, poverty—and is preoccupied with suffering that seems much more justified than her own. But we learn that pain and hardship are not the same as suffering. Elsie’s new Sri Lankan friends endure much more pain than she has, but they do not seem to suffer in the same way.

For Elsie, the way out of suffering isn’t simple or straightforward. Perhaps the most poignant part of the book is a beautiful section on Elsie’s time spent at a silent retreat center in the Sri Lankan countryside—although, of course, Elsie’s explorations of meditation and Buddhism in Sri Lanka don’t seem to yield any insights that actually change her behavior. She experiences “a new kind of perfect peace, one that quickly dispersed,” leaving her “still entirely at a loss as to how to be a human being.”

There’s no question that Tennant-Moore is an exceptional writer, and the book is a beautiful—if at times frustrating—meditation on the nature of suffering. Wreck and Order is raw, insightful, and sometimes profound.

Read More @ Tricycle



Hannah Tennant-Moore's debut novel is an antidote to 50 Shades of Grey.

By Keziah Weir

"I was in love," declares the narrator of Hannah Tennant-Moore's debut novel, Wreck and Order (Hogarth, Feb. 9), "meaning I was addicted to a specific body." Elsie Shore, a relentless self-examiner at age 16, 24, 30, has a complicated relationship with the men (and their bodies) in her life, for whom she feels a primal mix of jealousy, desire, and hostility. To Elsie, a man's orgasm is "perfect selfishness"; her own, a salve that "separated my longing from the man who had aroused it."

Being human, Elsie also has a complicated relationship with herself. When she is with a man, she's hyperaware that "my arousal came from knowing my body aroused him." Tennant-Moore—in this antidote to Fifty Shades of Grey, Hollywood's beloved simultaneous orgasm, and those personal narratives that treat feminine sexuality like some exotic beast—has managed to do a difficult thing: write frankly about female desire, and unfussily capture the emotional and visceral confusion of pleasure being contingent upon another human. "I had been so certain the night before that my life could not bear any more contact with him," Elsie says of the rough-edged, alcohol-fueled man she spends years trying to shake. "And then: We were making love and eating eggs."

Elsie cannot settle down, in every aspect of the phrase. After a year in Paris following high school, she lands in a California college town but never enrolls; she flees from heartache to a meditation retreat in Sri Lanka, then New York, and then Sri Lanka again. It's there, through meditation, that she learns a new kind of corporeal connectedness—dependent, for once, on only herself. Accordingly, the novel itself is deeply meditative, skewing toward the practice of someone whose mind is at odds with being calm. This is no typical, epiphanic single-woman journey story. In Wreck and Order, for once, we are given a female odyssey that is deeply satisfying without finding, at its end, the disappointing ease of a red satin bow.

Read @ Elle


PW Picks: Books of the Week, February 8, 2016

Wreck and Order Hannah Tennant-Moore. Random/Hogarth, $25

In Tennant-Moore’s sharp, confident debut novel, Elsie, a bright young woman in her 20s who is equal parts self-assured and self-destructive, isn’t afraid to name her feelings: “lust, rage, lust, rage.” But she’s at a loss for how to reconcile herself with the injustice in the world and “just be a decent person.” Encouraged by her indulgent father, who, thanks to inheriting a small fortune, floats her money when she needs it, she skips college for a life made on her own terms, travelling around the world: to Paris where she’s “overcome by [her] own worthlessness” at not being able to communicate and sublimates it by attempting to translate an out-of-print book about stray cats; to California, where she can’t escape a destructive attraction to Jared, a small-time drug dealer; and New York City, where her career ambitions give way to a relationship with Brian, who is stable and successful—but ultimately square (not to mention a selfish lover)—and quick to break off their short-lived engagement. Seeking a change in her life, Elsie backpacks around Sri Lanka, but Tennant-Moore is far too sophisticated and nuanced a writer to allow Elsie to be miraculously healed by the mysterious East. Instead, Tennant-Moore provides no easy answers, deftly illustrating Elsie’s inner monologue as she tries to face up to herself and the people around her.

Read @ Publishers Weekly


Best Books 2016: What to read in February

Wreck and Order, Hannah Tennant-Moore On sale February 9

This coming-of-age tale from debut novelist Hannah Tennant-Moore has a premise that harkens back to Eat, Pray, Love, but feels infinitely more badass. A young woman, Elsie, seeks happiness, pleasure, and meaning through travel and new experiences. Really though, she mostly drifts, blows through her inheritance money, falls for the wrong men, and makes plenty of other bad decisions. But, as the book's title suggests, there is a glimmer of hope to the chaos that is life.

Read @ Refinery 29


Wreck and Order’ a tumultuous ride

Drawing from her own personal life experience, Hudson Valley resident Hannah Tennant-Moore’s debut novel, Wreck and Order, was written after finding herself at a crossroads in life. After completing a master’s in fine arts in nonfiction, she set off for a two-month journey to Sri Lanka, to “examine her longtime interest in Buddhism.”

Elise is the main character in Wreck and Order, who as a twenty-something, is trying to find her way in life. Disinterested in college, she uses her father’s inheritance to travel to indulge in a life of adventure. While struggling with the spontaneity in her life, Elise settles into a job writing obituaries for a small-town newspaper in California and engaging in a heated, self-destructive affair with a man. When she breaks free of him and the job, she settles into a new life in Brooklyn that is secure but emotionally suffocating and disappointing.

Her life takes a turn when she rekindles her love interest and finds herself on a path to self-destruction. It is then that she decides to travel to Sri Lanka, where she once had some of the best moments in her life. But her quest for peace and happiness is riddled with challenges and she finds herself making many mistakes - culturally, spiritually and sexually.

Read @ Poughkeepsie Journal


Must-Read Books for February 2016

By Jonathon Sturgeon

Another anticipated debut (blurbed by Norman Rush, for example), Hannah Tennant-Moore’s Wreck and Order finds its protagonist in the familiar position of “traveling abroad to figure things out.” Thankfully, in this case, Elsie is an alternating current of conflictual emotions, a bicameral body in a state of dissensus. I predict many readers will see something of their own inner churning in this first novel.

Read @ Flavorwire