The Worst Kind of Want: A Novel (Paperback)
A trip to Italy reignites a woman’s desires to disastrous effect in this dark ode to womanhood, death, and sex
To cool-headed, fastidious Pricilla Messing, Italy will be an escape, a brief glimpse of freedom from a life that's starting to feel like one long decline.
Rescued from the bedside of her difficult mother, forty-something Cilla finds herself called away to Rome to keep an eye on her wayward teenage niece, Hannah. But after years of caregiving, babysitting is the last thing Cilla wants to do. Instead she throws herself into Hannah's youthful, heedless world—drinking, dancing, smoking—relishing the heady atmosphere of the Italian summer. After years of feeling used up and overlooked, Cilla feels like she's coming back to life. But being so close to Hannah brings up complicated memories, making Cilla restless and increasingly reckless, and a dangerous flirtation with a teenage boy soon threatens to send her into a tailspin.
With the sharp-edged insight of Ottessa Moshfegh and the taut seduction of Patricia Highsmith, The Worst Kind of Want is a dark exploration of the inherent dangers of being a woman. In her unsettling follow-up to Catalina, Liska Jacobs again delivers hypnotic literary noir about a woman whose unruly desires and troubled past push her to the brink of disaster.
About the Author
Liska Jacobs is the author of Catalina, and her essays and short fiction have appeared in The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and The Hairpin, among other publications. She holds an MFA from the University of California, Riverside.
A Best Book of Fall at Esquire, Vulture, and Cosmopolitan
Most Anticipated at CrimeReads, Pop Sugar, The Millions, The Palm Beach Post, and Lit Hub
A Best Book of the Week at New York Post
“This crispy biscotti of a novel is about a producer who goes to Italy, has a scandalous relationship, and decodes not just the meaning of life but also the meaning of death, sex, dance clubs, and emoji. You’ll feel indecent reading it in public.”
—Molly Young, Vulture
“Dark, seductive . . . Noirish and sexy, this provocative novel explores what it’s like to be a woman on the edge, and what happens when dreams are deferred for too long.”
—Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire
“Womanhood. Death. Sex. A risky flirtation with a teenage boy. In Jacobs’s latest novel, she weaves together desire and disaster as a burned-out 40-something throws herself into the nightlife of teenagers in the heat of the Italian summer. Sounds like . . . she predicted my future?”
"An unconventional—and disastrous—love story, as death-steeped, sultry, and delicious as the ancient Italian cities in which it’s set."
—Emily Temple, Lit Hub
“Liska Jacobs’s work captivates in the present because it reflects the trauma of the past. . . Jacobs takes us on a wrenching journey into the catacombs.”
—Julia Ingalls, Alta
"Jacobs’s intoxicating second novel is a love letter to Italy and an evocative study of grief and desire . . . Jacobs’s haunting portrait of one woman’s transformative and, ultimately, tragic summer will linger with readers."
"As in her stylish debut, Catalina, Jacobs sets her narrator on a dark psychological journey in sweltering, sun-bleached locales . . . Darkly compelling."
—Annie Bostrom, Booklist
“Liska Jacobs’s psychologically tense novel The Worst Kind of Want deftly explores matters of age and aging, of modernity and women, as seen through the lens of forty-something Cilla’s propulsive desires. In this sharply written feminist noir, Jacobs takes readers on a thrillingly doomed journey amid the simmering heat of an Italian landscape—a captivating portrayal of self and want.”
—Christine Mangan, author of Tangerine
“The Worst Kind of Want is a devilish, devious, and sultry psychological thrill ride. Each page overflows with disquieting passion and sumptuous detail. Jacobs is an archaeologist who dives deep into her characters’ illicit desires and reveals them with unnerving and unflinching honesty.”
—Ivy Pochoda, author of Wonder Valley
“The Worst Kind of Want transported me to Rome and blessed me with an addictive, sexy story about a woman who tries to turn her pain into a fleeting, forgettable recklessness. If only that were possible. Liska Jacobs has written a smart, emotionally resonant, delicious novel about a complicated woman, her complicated family, and her complicated past. I couldn’t put it down even if I tried.”
—Edan Lepucki, author of Woman No. 17
“Liska Jacobs’s dangerous psychological novel, about a woman caught up in the unnerving throes of middle age desire, plays out like a house on fire against its luscious Italian background. The perfect vacation read, like Under the Tuscan Sun gone darkly, desperately wrong.
—Janet Fitch, author of Chimes of a Lost Cathedral
"Embrace your sensual cougar energy with this crispy sharp Italian biscotti of a novel"
—Molly Young, Read Like the Wind