Books & Reviews
From the bestselling author of Drunk Mom, comes a story of romantic obsession, mental illness, and self-discovery as one woman travels to a haunted quarantine island.
Josephine is obsessed. Or possessed — by unrequited love for a younger man who doesn’t promise anything, but who gives her a taste of intimacy that puts her on the brink of losing her mind. Oscillating between her elusive lover and her older former partner, stuck in the hell that is working in a cubicle, and obliged to tend to her destructive, senile mother, Josephine is trapped.
After a work assignment promises to deliver distraction, Josephine makes a decision to visit a former quarantine island in the Adriatic Sea, where she meets an enigmatic, beautiful man with a haunting story. Intimate and erotic, Possessed is a dark and funny story exploring sexual obsession, mental illness, and the supernatural.
The Globe and Mail: The Canadian books we’re most excited about in 2022
The Globe Best Book(s) of the Fall
CBC: 65 works of Canadian fiction to watch for in fall 2022
CBC: The best Canadian fiction of 2022
Hamilton Review of Books: 65 works of Canadian fiction to watch for in fall 2022
“Bydlowska, the author of the bestselling books Drunk Mom and Guy, packs her novel with racy scenarios exploring the emotions that surface when sex wheels its inquisitive head; their purpose in less capable hands might simply titillate, but in Possessed they also become evocative of mental crisis and mortifying insecurity. As only a novelist that has come into their own can manage, Bydlowska presents the upheavals in Josephine and Luka’s lives with a great deal of emotional perceptiveness.”
- The Globe and Mail
“Like Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behaviour, Annie Ernaux’s A Girl’s Story, and more recently, Anna Fitzpatrick’s Good Girl, Possessed zeroes in on its characters’ Freudian fears and lusts with a conviction that our minds may be our worst enemies.”
“The 30-something protagonist of Bydlowska’s second novel, Possessed, recently released under Dundurn Press’s experimental imprint, Rare Machines. Inspired by a real-life breakup, Bydlowska envisions her character in much darker places, threading dry humour and crisp dialogue throughout this story of a self-loathing woman who feels stuck in life as the caregiver for her verbally abusive mother in the early stages of dementia.”
- Toronto Star
“Possessed is a great novel for those who want to read a supernatural novel that contains elements of contemporary literary fiction. It’s a novel that questions the current dating culture, and what it means to be possessed by someone who does not feel the same way. It critiques how and why people date, but also how boundaries are important in all relationships. Josephine’s character is unapologetically going through a difficult mental health episode in her life. Her decision making and her inner life are thought provoking, and will produce a lot of great discussion. Possessed is a great novel to pick up this fall, and I would recommend it to anyone in a book club looking for a unique supernatural read.”
- Cloud Lake Literary
“This book is explosive, it’s supernatural, it’s deeply believable. I think it owes a great deal of its authenticity to Bydlowska’s willingness to be really really real about things that are hard to talk about and often sugar coated: feeling stuck, caring for aging parents, not being able to get out of the vicious cycle of compulsive behaviour, an insurmountable feeling of self-doubt.”
"What the reader gets with this book is a heavyweight of lyrical language, a meandering and gloriously messy exploration of a life not truly lived, liberally sprinkled with exquisitely crafted erotica, and the supernatural. Yes, there is a lot of erotica; this is not the book for those offended by terms both clinical and vulgar. Yet the vulgarity is spun into a beautiful and moving tapestry; while sometimes shocking, it is never awkward or cringeworthy. Dark and cutting, this book holds themes of mental illness, self-loathing and sexual masochism, but also of hope and healing.”
- The Miramichi Reader
“There is no doubt this book is strange so it won’t be for everyone, but its writing is so intense that it does have merit in reading. Josephine’s brutal honesty is a style of writing that Bydlowska is becoming known for, the best example being her aforementioned memoir, and it’s a style I’m really enjoying, even as it provides an initial shock to the system.”
- I’ve Read This
Jowita Bydlowska's memoir of her relapse into addiction is an extraordinary achievement. The writing is raw and immediate. It places you in the moment--saddened, appalled, nerve-wracked, but never able to look away or stop turning the pages. With brutal honesty, Bydlowska takes us through the binges and blackouts, the self-deception and less successful attempts to deceive others, the humiliations and extraordinary risk-taking. She shines a light on the endless hunger of wanting just one more drink, and one more again, while dealing with motherhood, anxiety, depression--and rehab.
"While the title suggests a simple autobiographical autopsy of motherhood marred by alcoholism, Bydlowska’s memoir delivers far more – a human portrait of the disease."
- The New York Times Book Review
"It is a memoir that pushes at boundaries – what is private, what should perhaps be kept private, what we need to know, what we don’t, what is insightful or just exhibitionism. [O]ne of the most talked-about books of the season…."
- Globe and Mail
"Drunk Mom is a rarity in this age of constant overshares—a work that had me questioning, “Does she want us to know this? Should I know this?” as I read it. …At times, it’s also a shockingly amusing read, sprinkled with wry, dark humour. I couldn’t put it down."
"[M]aternal tippling is a trendy topic on ‘mom’ blogs… But these chirpy, jokey accounts don’t touch the dark spiral of addiction Toronto writer Jowita Bydlowska relives in this riveting account… Bydlowska is an evocative, talented and gutsy writer who appears willing to confess all."
"To understand this story in the guise of an addiction memoir is to misunderstand its worth…. Instead, this book is fresh within the context of a parenting memoir, one of a particular kind: A counterculture parenting memoir. [It] stands as an uncommonly perceptive chronicle of what it means to be an intelligent, urban parent trying to hold on to the rest of her life. As a writer, she’s got some chops."
- National Post
"Drunk Mom is a stunning, harrowing read. Why harrowing? Not just because of the dramatic story, of a new mother at the edge of her tether. And not only because of Jowita Bydlowska’s skill as a writer, and the crisp, original way she tells it. What’s most harrowing about Drunk Mom is that you can’t stop reading it—this, the dark, now-told tale that lurks in the shadow
of every seemingly normal family."
- Ian Brown, author of The Boy in the Moon
"A compelling, raw look at her struggle with alcoholism,
the addiction that swallowed
[Bydlowska] after the birth of her son."
- Elle (Canada)
"A brave, brilliant and scathing self-portrait. Full of energy and insight. If Frida Kahlo had been a writer, she might have been compared to Jowita Bydlowska."
- Patricia Pearson, author of
A Brief History of Anxiety – Yours and Mine
"It takes guts to write a book called Drunk Mom. You couldn’t pay me a million bucks to slap my name under a title like that. In fact, I suspect very few people in the world who share a story like this would. But I’m glad Jowita did because you know where I am right now? I’m about to enter one of those Amazing Awesome meetings. I hadn’t been going regularly; I was taking a break.
Drunk Mom brought me back."
- She Does the City
"Fearless and troubling, and so very humane,
Bydlowska explodes the cutesy memoir genre.
You’ll read it in one sitting."
- Katrina Onstad, author of Everybody Has Everything
"Jowita is matter-of-fact, funny, fearless, and irreverent as she lifts the veil to chronicle what it means to be a young mother when both baby and mother have their own bottles — the shame and the inner voices, as well as the joy and relief. This book is for anyone who has ever struggled to make it through a day."
- Laura Albert, a.k.a. JT LeRoy, author of Sarah, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, and Harold’s End
"Jowita Bydlowska, to steal a phrase from Hemingway, writes hard and clear about what hurts. And man oh man can she write! …In my decades as a lover of books I’ve written only two fan mails. One of them went to Jowita Bydlowska. Thank you, Jowita, for Drunk Mom – for its rawness, for its clarity, for its bravery."
- Angie Abdou, Fernie Fix
"This is quite simply not just another addiction memoir. It’s something truly special. I felt this book. It carries the reader. It whispers. It really is can’t-put-it-down great!"
- Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, author of
I’m Kind of a Big Deal: And Other Delusions of Adequacy
"[A] gifted writer, and a courageous one… Without glibness, without self-pity, knowing that she risks being judged, Bydlowska tells her story…. Luckily for those reading her story, she possesses a wickedly dark sense of humour."
-The Gazette (Montreal)
"[She] eschews the touchy-feely language of recovery … The cool yet raw efficiency of Bydlowska’s prose, a testament to her successful journalistic career, repudiates indulgence of any kind. This detachment is what makes Drunk Mom both a painful yet paradoxically effortless read."
- Literary Review of Canada
Guy thinks he's God's gift to women. But then again, so do women. Guy is a successful talent agent who dates models, pop stars and women he meets on the beach. He's a narcissistic, judgmental snob who rates women's looks from one to ten; a racist, homophobic megalomaniac who makes fun of people's weight; a cheating, lying, manipulative jerk who sees his older girlfriend as nothing more than an adornment. His only real friend, besides his dog, is a loser who belongs to a pickup artist group. Guy is completely oblivious to his own lack of empathy, and his greatest talent is hiding it all?until he meets someone who challenges him in a way he's never been challenged before. Darkly funny and utterly offensive, Guy is a brilliant and insightful character study that exposes the twisted thoughts of the misogynist bro next door.
"Being Guy felt horrifically natural, as if he stepped right out of my own debased, politically incorrect sex fantasy. This book is unputdownable, full of sly, modern details that made me laugh and grimace right into the twist ending."
- Miranda July, author of The First Bad Man
“Guy is devastating and hilarious. It’s brutal and destructive and life-affirming. It’s a must-read. Jowita Bydlowska isn’t just one of this nation’s bravest writers, she’s one of our best.”
“I’m reading Jowita Bydlowska’s Guy. I can’t think of another novel where a female writer gets so deeply and convincingly into the head of a man, right into his sexual DNA. What a brave, absorbing book this is.
- Barbara Gowdy, author of The Romantic
“With clear, propellant prose, Bydlowska (Drunk Mom) places readers inside a terrible man’s head to terrific effect. Guy is a successful talent agent, a star-maker. He’s complicated, self-possessed, and assured of his good looks and social worth. There’s an American Psycho–like quality to Guy’s idiosyncrasies: his obsessiveness regarding food, the coldness with which he views friends and lovers, the fetishistic self-love through which he details his own merits. But Guy is not a psychopath; he simply views the world in calculating terms. What’s alarming is how not-horrifying and utterly familiar he seems. He’s just some guy.”
- Publishers Weekly
“Bydlowska has already proven her skill when it comes to taking on dark and difficult subject matter. Though Guy is certainly a very different project, it’s one entirely suited for Bydlowska’s unique approach to the page. The author’s signature pared-back prose is perfect for getting inside the mind of her fictional narcissist.”
- The Globe and Mail
“Guy, Jowita Bydlowska’s first novel, is worth celebrating. It is an illuminating page-turner, a deep-dive into the unsentimental world of sex, addiction, privilege and fame that its wonderfully hateable narrator inhabits With Guy, Bydlowska becomes an important voice in the current cultural discussion around privilege in Canada.
Once Bydlowska checks excellent sex writing off
her to-do list, she has another very difficult task in
front of her: humanizing the utterly despicable Guy.
She pulls this off too.”
- The Winnipeg Review
“Guy is not just a wonderful first novel, it is a wonderful novel. It will turn you on, disturb you, make you think and keep you reading past your bedtime.”
- Metro News
“Though the “Lad-lit” genre has been around for a long time with authors such as Nick Hornby and Bret Easton Ellis (whose iconic novel American Psycho was influential on Bydlowska), it is rare for a woman to write such a brutally honest first-person depiction of a misogynist.”
- CBC/ The Next Chapter
(interview with Shelagh Rogers)
“Jowita Bydlowska rose to attention as the author of Drunk Mom, her bestselling 2013 memoir about struggling with alcoholism when she was a new mother. Her satirical debut novel, Guy, is a compelling portrait of a womanizer.”
- Toronto Life
“Bydlowska paints a convincing portrait of the modern misogynist in a novel full of hilarious and disturbingly realistic detail.”
- Consumed by Ink
“This book was entertaining and provocative. I think that I’ll be passing this book on to the members of my book club.
I’m looking forward to a discussion about the intentions of men, the vengeance of women, and the reasonable
limits of both.”
- The Library of Pacific Tranquility
“Jowita Bydlowska has truly documented an element of the human condition with her novel Guy. She has given readers pause in their own actions and thoughts about their attitudes towards other people. It is a darkly funny read at times but one that is reflective as well.”
“This novel is all hard edges and brutality. There isn’t an ounce of sentimentality in Guy. The young, female niche audience appears to consist of jaded Girls viewers, “Missed Opportunity” contributors in the Kijiji classifieds and battered Tinder veterans. Perhaps this jaundiced “CadLit” will hold more appeal for them. (…)I craved a nineteenth-century costume drama”
- Toronto Star