February 2016's Best Books To Light Up Your Winter

By Melissa Ragsdale

Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore (Feb 9; Hogarth)

This debut novel dives into the world of Elsie, an auto-didact twentysomething who's skipping college to learn through travel, traversing the world on the back of an inheritance. There's a little bit of Elsie in all of us, and with all of Tennant-Moore's acute observations, you'll find every bit of this book intensely satisfying.

Read @ Bustle

Publisher's Weekly: Writers to Watch

Spring 2016: Anticipated Debut Fiction

A Trip to Sri Lanka Spurs a Meditation on Sexuality

By Daniel Lefferts | Jan 29, 2016

In 2010, before starting her debut novel, Wreck and Order (Hogarth, Feb.), Hannah Tennant-Moore, then 27, spent two months backpacking around Sri Lanka. She’d recently completed her M.F.A. at Bennington College and had no major commitments—no regular job, no boyfriend. “I didn’t even have my cat yet,” she says. “I went there not knowing anybody. I felt displaced in this really magical way. I became sort of an organism of observation.”

As a Buddhist, Tennant-Moore was attracted to Sri Lanka’s religious culture. As a nonfiction writer with a focus on gender and sexuality, she was interested to see how women there navigated a largely patriarchal society. “I was struck by how hardworking the women tended to be, and how lazy the men tended to be,” she says. She met young girls who were wary of riding bikes for fear of breaking their hymens before their wedding nights. When Tennant-Moore began writing upon her return from Sri Lanka, she set out to document “the inequality of pleasure—the double standard in terms of the male and female enjoyment of sexuality.”

Wreck and Order centers on a young woman in her 20s, Elsie, who travels to a number of places, including Sri Lanka, Paris, and California, and carries on a number of (sometimes destructive) romances. Tennant-Moore, who grew up near Boston, had written a number of essays on women’s sexuality, for publications such as Dissent and n+1, but, in her novel, she wanted to “simply describe the feelings and sensations” that result from gender imbalances. “I didn’t feel like explaining facts that really got at the underlying issue, which is that it causes a lot of pain to young women who are excited about starting to become sexual beings. That pain was something I hadn’t come across.”

Alexis Washam, an executive editor at Hogarth, acquired the book in summer 2014. “What was really exciting to me about this book was how fearless it was,” she says. Tennant-Moore “is willing to go places that are a little uncomfortable, and that might strike some readers as difficult to swallow.” Washam adds that the book “serves as a challenge to some of the narratives of enlightenment, or narratives of sexual discovery, that cover familiar ground.”

Read @ Publisher's Weekly

The Millions

The Great 2016 Book Preview

Tennant-Moore’s debut novel, Wreck and Order, brings the audience into the life of Elsie, an intelligent young woman making self-destructive decisions. Economically privileged, she travels instead of attending college. Upon her return from Paris, she finds herself stuck in an abusive relationship and a job she hates — so she leaves the U.S. again, this time for Sri Lanka. A starred review from Publishers Weekly says, “Tennant-Moore is far too sophisticated and nuanced a writer to allow Elsie to be miraculously healed by the mysterious East.” Tennant-Moore leaves the audience with questions about how to find oneself and one’s purpose.

Read @ The Millions


Elsie doesn’t have to worry about money. What she does have to worry about, however, is her aimless existence with a borderline-abusive boyfriend and a job at the local paper working on obituaries. When she decides to travel to Sri Lanka to escape her predictable life, she finds herself discovering a new way of living. Upon returning after a meditative retreat, she moves to New York and becomes engaged to a man who is everything she is not—reliable, stable, and sure of himself. But she rebels against this potentially suffocating future and returns again to Sri Lanka, staying with a young woman desperate to practice her English. Tennant-Moore’s descriptions of life in Sri Lanka are rich with the rapturous detail caught by a visitor’s eye. As Elsie grapples with her issues, particularly around sex and intimacy, she finds that life in a country where she is both free to be herself and more uncertain of her place than ever somehow allows her to tackle her problems from a new perspective. The result is sharp, fresh, and breathtakingly honest.

— Bridget Thoreson, January 1, 2016

Santa Barbara Independent

By Charles Donelan

Hogarth, a prestige imprint at Penguin Random House that’s devoted to hot new literary fiction, will publish Hannah Tennant-Moore’s debut novel on February 9, 2016. For a young novelist, this is a heady achievement. Tennant-Moore is on a list that’s already crowded with Booker nominees and National Book Critics Circle Award winners, and Wreck and Order looks likely to get the same kind of elite attention.

To the author’s credit, that’s in many ways the least interesting thing about this compulsively readable, at times shocking first-person narrative. Far from being some genteel experiment with fictional form or a sentimental account of coming of age, this is instead the first novel as shot across the bow, an opening salvo in what promises to be a contrarian career. Protagonist Elsie Shore is a financially independent young woman who trades the typical four-year-college route for a series of increasingly wild adventures, many of them carnal.

Beginning in a Carpinteria dive bar, and ranging as far abroad from our region as Brooklyn and Sri Lanka, Wreck and Order provides a glimpse inside the head of a brilliant, highly critical millennial mind that’s driven by alternating impulses of “lust and rage.” Lest this sound overly harsh, know that Elsie is also an extraordinarily good listener, especially to the broken English spoken by her best friend in Sri Lanka, Suriya.

The novel’s forthright candor about sexuality can’t be separated from its equally direct approach to contemporary politics. In fact, the connection between the two may be the one sure thing in Elsie Shore’s perpetual oscillations. One minute she’s getting a bikini wax, and the next she’s imagining “that the strips of hot wax were being applied and yanked against my will” in a secret CIA prison or Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. It’s Tennant-Moore’s breathtaking command of the syntax of the long sentence that makes the book so readable. Elsie’s sinuous, ever-surprising thoughts wind over and over again into paragraph-long arabesques, and the effect is near hypnotic. Expect it to make a big splash among aficionados of serious fiction in 2016.

Read @ Santa Barbara Independent

Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

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. The book has a broad appeal, and many young women will keep it stacked on their bookshelf next to Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick and cart it with them like a talisman through the various bad apartments of their 20s. (Feb.)

Read @ PW


Tennant-Moore’s sharp debut follows a defiantly self-destructive young woman—powerfully intelligent and profoundly lost—as she grapples with identity, spirituality, and purpose.

Elsie, recently returned from a miserable year in Paris—her alternative to college—and now reveling in her own free fall, has a job writing obituaries for her small-town Southern California paper and an explosive relationship with an alcoholic rockabilly guitarist/drug dealer named Jared (“Here was an answer to the question of what to do with my life,” she notes, bleakly). Trying to escape both Jared and her current existence, she buys a ticket to Sri Lanka. “I had known other versions of myself that allowed me to hope the situation I was in would not be my life,” she explains. Sri Lanka, appealing for both its incongruity—“a tropical paradise that was also a recent war zone”—and its distance, offers a kind of desperate hope. This could be the beginning of an exhausted cliché: young, pretty American woman has transformative experience traveling through Third World country; meets local people; finds meaning and purpose. But it isn’t—this is not that book. Elsie does develop meaningful connections, of course, but even her most intimate interactions are fraught, warm but complicated; upon returning home, she is not transformed. “I felt I could handle the wrong choices now, that I could live the old life in a new way,” she explains: more Jared, more drifting, a fledgling French translation project, another man, another troubled relationship. And then a letter arrives that draws her back to Sri Lanka for a trip that is both deeper and more demanding than the first. With bracing insight, Tennant-Moore captures not only Elsie’s inner life, but also her physical existence; the novel stands out not only for its emotional precision, but for its incredible attention to the visceral realities of having a body.

Often unsettling, sometimes funny, always meticulously observed; a quietly intoxicating novel that resists easy answers.

Read @ Kirkus