• Acts of Desperation

  • By: Megan Nolan
  • Narrated by: Lauren Coe
  • Length: 6 hrs and 41 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (95 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Heralding the arrival of “a huge literary talent” (Karl Ove Knausgaard), Megan Nolan’s riveting debut is “a blistering anti-romance” (Catherine Lacey) about love addiction and what it does to us.

Wouldn’t I do anything to reverse my loss, the absence of him?

In the first scene of this provocative gut-punch of a novel, our unnamed narrator meets a magnetic writer named Ciaran and falls, against her better judgment, completely in his power. After a brief, all-consuming romance, he abruptly rejects her, sending her into a tailspin of jealous obsession and longing. If he ever comes back to her, she resolves to hang onto him and his love at all costs, even if it destroys her....

Part breathless confession, part lucid critique, Acts of Desperation renders a consciousness split between rebellion and submission, between escaping degradation and eroticizing it, between loving and being lovable. With unsettling, electric precision, Nolan dissects one of life’s most elusive mysteries: Why do we want what we want, and how do we want it?

Combining the intellectual excitement of Rachel Cusk with the emotional rawness of Elena Ferrante, Acts of Desperation interrogates the nature of desire, power, and toxic relationships, challenging us to reckon honestly with our own insatiability.

©2021 Megan Nolan (P)2021 Little, Brown & Company

Critic Reviews

“Megan Nolan is a huge literary talent, and her first novel, Acts of Desperation, is a love story like no other. The writing is intense and honest, with a rare access to real life, but it is also reflective and full of insights, and with this combination the novel manages to separate the idea of love and the experience of it, and take the reader to the place where it comes into being.” (Karl Ove Knausgaard)

“I devoured this book, my heart trilling with equal parts terror and exhilaration. It is an emotional thriller, a portrait of obsession - its pleasures and powerlessness, its inevitable corruption not only of integrity, but even selfhood. Nolan’s prose is cool and liquid, her content perfectly scorching. I loved this taut and torturous ode to the parts of us that persist, even as we are wrecked by love.”(Melissa Febos, author of Abandon Me and Whip Smart)

“Remarkable....This mesmerizes from the first page.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) 

“Acts of Desperation charts the obsession of an unnamed narrator…with forensic focus and biting honesty.” (The Observer, 10 Best Debut Novelists of 2021

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What listeners say about Acts of Desperation

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  • Overall
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Wonderful and tortured

This is a wonderful book about the profound exploration of a young woman's sexual and emotional experience with a cold, emotionally abusive and critical but handsome man, Ciaran. It's in the genre of My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh and Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels. I loved this so much because it has psychological depth and I'm bored by anything else (yes, I'm a psychologist).

There are those who will attempt this book and think it's too self absorbed - so stay away from this if the deep, rich, inner life of women doesn't interest you. Probably most men won't like this. But if you liked the other books I mentioned, you'll love this too, I'm sure.

Now I've just got to find more of equal quality!

9 people found this helpful

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A Work of Art

I found myself saying "wow" out loud, in swooning sort of way, all throughout the story. It read like one long beautiful poem. Her mind felt incredibly familiar, real, and relatable. I went out to buy a bottle of wine after it finished, and cried about how amazing and terrible it all was. I loved it, I hated it, I will never forget it.

3 people found this helpful

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very heartbreaking

This book was very very heartbreaking. The name of the narrator was never given, so it remains anonymous. The poor girl did anything to feel "loved" and to feel "validated". She went through so much bs and was still treated horribly by everyone. If you want to feel sad this book is the way to go.

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A tough but honest read

Confession time: I bought this book for three reasons. One, it was on sale for super cheap, and it sounded interesting enough to warrant the $3,95 price tag. Two, I love confessional narratives. Three, I love books about obsession

I am going to start by applauding Megan Nolan for writing the most realistic character I have ever read. I have met young women who are just like the novel's protagonist. The protagonist is ultimately going to make or break the reading/listening experience of this novel. Some will find her tragic and sympathetic. Some will find her relatable. They know someone like her, or they are like her. There are people that will think she is a total trainwreck and be here for all the drama, the same way they eat up a reality television programs. Then there are people that are going to find her pathetic, self-absorbed, and irrational. I, unfortunately, fall into the last group. I was here for the protagonist's journey up until halfway through the book when it was obvious that she was still hung up on the same jerk. While it is realistic for a woman with such a low self-esteem to seek validation through toxic pairings, it is frustrating to be the outsider looking in when I want to shake the protagonist by the shoulders and scream, "Get over him already."

That said, I have to commend the talent of this debut author. Megan Nolan is going to be one watch in the future. She is a superb writer who crafts characters that are so real, you might find yourself comparing them to people in your own life. They are three-dimensional, which means they are not the most likable people, but they make every interaction in the novel real and raw.

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Eerily Relatable

I have lived this voice, not in sequence necessarily, but in totality. It is uncanny, intense, and the culmination of the most tragic and desperate vignettes of my long life.

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Touching

My opinion of this book is that it was very raw, heartfelt and touching. I feel like many women could relate to it.

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Not what I expected

I was suggested this book based on my listening history. It was a poor suggestion by audible. Probably an interesting story if you’re looking for something about anxious attachment styles

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Gorgeous, tragic

A sad yet rich portrait of what it looks like to be a young adult who is being taken advantage of while battling the world's larger forces — Nolan does an excellent job of taking us into her mind and what the thought patterns of a co-dependent, abusive relationship look like. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but if the subject matter makes you uncomfortable, you probably should look elsewhere.