Like Being Killed

Like Being Killed

3.6 6
by Ellen Miller

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Scorching, authentic, and brilliantly written, Like Being Killed illuminates a world that exists parallel to our own, a world where young people -- desperate to connect with something larger than themselves -- risk death in pursuit of a substitute for all things pure, meaningful, and seemingly denied them, a world where friendship is both the most blessed and…  See more details below


Scorching, authentic, and brilliantly written, Like Being Killed illuminates a world that exists parallel to our own, a world where young people -- desperate to connect with something larger than themselves -- risk death in pursuit of a substitute for all things pure, meaningful, and seemingly denied them, a world where friendship is both the most blessed and the most dangerous thing. This extraordinary debut novel introduces a boldly original and prodigiously talented young writer absolutely unafraid to explore the darker side of society -- and ourselves.

Editorial Reviews

Stephanie Zacharek
. . .[P]uts you in a drug user's head, but it doesn't give you enough reasons to want to stay there.
The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like its narrator -- overweight, overeducated, cynical 25-year-old East Village junkie Ilyana Meyerovich -- Miller's debut is a downer too smart to write off, a ramshackle, sentimental novel distinguished by a voice full of vibrant, self-loathing intelligence. We first meet Ilyana at her friend Gerry's morose, coke-and heroine-snorting 33rd birthday. The party, which ends in Gerry's death by overdose, breaks up their druggy clique and prompts Ilyana to get serious about her life's work -- not her day job, temping (ironically) for a publisher of self-help books -- but her vocation: self-annihilation through drugs and masochistic sex. On the way down, she recounts the travails that have brought her to this pass: chiefly, a lonely childhood in a miserable, working-class Brooklyn family and a wrecked friendship (beautifully rendered by Miller) with her former roommate, big, square, loving, 'Ivory Soap' girl Susie Lyons. Before Miller halts Ilyana's plunge toward suicide (as if by magic, sad to say) and reunites Ilyana with Susie, she shows a great, erratic talent doomed by the redemptive machinery of the up-from-addiction genre. Despite the weak ending and an embarrassment of half-baked Big Themes (Ilyana's lost Jewishness, the mental illness that may run in her Holocaust-haunted family, her childhood suffering at the hands of reckless doctors), Miller's literate, high-Romantic irony, psychological acuity and keen observations of the rickety friendships that addicts cultivate all set her apart from the smack pack. At heart she's more Thomas DeQuincy than Luke Davies or Irvine Welsh; her wonderful Ilyana is one of the more memorable misfits in recent fiction.
Library Journal
Ilyana Meyerovich is an intelligent, extremely well-educated young woman with a heroin habit. Sinking into a world ruled by drugs, she experiences alienation, self-loathing, and sexual degradation. The one good thing in her life is the genuine friendship of her roommate, Susie Lyons. Susie is oblivious to Ilyana's drug use as well as the drug abuse of her own boyfriend. Can Susie's friendship save Ilyana, or will Susie be destroyed with everything else in Ilyana's life? This is a frustrating book; Miller often uses beautiful prose to describe ugly events but ultimately says little new about the toll of drugs or the isolation of modern life. Ilyana's extensive knowledge of medicine, science, and history is intriguing, but too many asides are used to illustrate her intellectual gifts. Readers who can stomach the graphic language, sex, and drug use, however, may enjoy this literary first novel. -- Devon Thomas
Kirkus Reviews
First-novelist Miller pulls a minimum of punches in her grueling depiction of a young woman's heroin-assisted downward spiral. Since her youth in Bensonhurst, Ilyana, the only child of crude, abusive parents, sensed heroin as an inevitable destination. Now a bookish Brown graduate, she lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the same neighborhood her grandparents had worked hard to escape. Ilyana does her best to resist friendships: such attachments seem inevitably to lead to loss. When her beloved roommate commits suicide, Ilyana replaces her with Susie, a big-boned mosaic-maker who deflects Ilyana's reflexive cruelty and wears down her wariness with generosity and bad jokes. Effortlessly domestic, Susie even gets the nihilistic Ilyana to bake a peach pie. Initially, Ilyana is confused by Paul, Susie's nice-guy boyfriend, but then she gets at what's behind his lack of focus: that he's using heroin. He manipulates her into keeping it secret from Susie: and when Susie discovers her deception, she immediately moves out. Bereft, and ruminating on her lost friendship, Ilyana intensifies her own use and takes up with a slick pack of clever addicts' the sort who play parlor games predicting how each will die, but even that insubstantial circle evaporates when a gang member overdoses. Ilyana meticulously chronicles the degrading minutiae of the months that follow: her razor-sharp memory and ready grab-bag of scientific and literary references donþt dissipate, but, rather, enrich her meditations on paralysis, consciously chosen loneliness, masochistic relationships (including a fling with Susie's Paul), and the decay of her bodily functions. It's only when Paul dies ofAIDS, and Ilyana's suicidal wishes run rampant, that she opens herself to a redemption of sorts. Though the hopeful transformations feel a bit forced, Ilyanaþs voice is authentic in unsparingly illuminating the link between self-protection and self-destruction, revealing a tender inner life that persists despite addiction, depression, and descent into squalor. A bleak, bracing debut.

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Product Details

Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.34(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.93(d)

What People are saying about this

Annie Dillard
In this novel, Ellen Miller hurls herself, along with her readers, into a world that resonates with moral complexity, startling anecdote, humor and good humor, brutality and compassion. Her prose is uncommonly clear, compelling, unaffected, and strong. The range of her narrative concerns -- from Primo Levi, Nietzsche, and dead languages to bagels and peach pies -- proves that she can make anything interesting.

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Like Being Killed 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up solely for the title. Had it been called anything else, I probably would have put it down within the first twenty pages. I think this is either a love-it or hate-it book - the parts that I found well-written were all entangled with clumsier, less graceful and overly wordy passages. I felt I knew the narrator's outcome long before the novel got off the ground (about three quarters of the way through). I didn't find Ellen Miller's protagonist Ilyana likeable to the point of cheering her on. Instead of gracefully expressing the pain of heroin addiction and sexual masochism, Ilyana comes off more as whining and self-absorbed - which is really the major turn-off of the book, not being able to sympathize with the protagonist - especially when such a character could have such a high level of potential connection. The plot to me seemed too self-involved and too slow-moving to be satisfying. The entire novel feels like Miller is trying to make things overly complicated - I think that would be the biggest drawback of this book it's just too excessive. Several times I found myself thinking, 'Just cut it off...there!' With the amount of action and depravity packed in, I think Miller's talent (which is present, nevertheless) would be more appropriately expressed in shorter form, i.e., several very compelling short stories or novellas. And speaking of excess - there are several scenes (the 'cucumber scene' being one of them) that will be with me, and not in a particularly good way, for a long time. Miller is effective at shocking the reader, but after the first two or three times, really, it gets old, and then it just gets gross. But like I said, some parts are very beautiful and very precise. I found the passages about Ilyana's psychosis pinpoint, along with the haphazard apathy of Ilyana's relationship with her ex-roomate's ex-boyfriend who is also addicted to heroin, HIV positive, and dead by the end of the novel. I have to give Miller credit, despite the discrepancies of her novel: I read this book months ago and I am still thinking about it. The best I can say for this book is that it definitely puts you in a drug user's head - but it doesn't give you enough reason to stay.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like Being Killed is something else. I could hardly put it down and wanted to finish as soon as I could. Ellen Miller does an amazing job of getting into the characters heads. It was great though rough.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Share this book. It is a story about hope. Pure and simple. Hope, in the most raw way, a story about the craving to feel connected with another human being and the spirit's need for forgiveness. Yes, perhaps in places the words get thick, but this is representative of the way the main character's mind works, which is vital to understanding the story. I have seen lives like these before and can say with all certainty, this is as accurate as one can make fiction, as real as the grit under your nails and the sweat in your eyes. You can feel the urgency in the characters and beyond that, you will feel their hope. Even if you do not enjoy the book (for the author is unashamed to be crude and disgusting to make the story real), Like Being Killed deserves your attention through to its conclusion, only there will you discover how (like) being killed really feels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The prose of this book are extraordinary! I read the book in a 24 hour period- or I guess I should say I devoured the book. The main characters are extremely creative and yet somehow personable and relateable- even for someone who knows little to nothing of the world they occupy. Ilayna is one of the most enjoyable characters I've had the honor of getting to know- however some of her experiences are at best dramatically enhanced. The ending is very comforting- I felt it was the perfect conclusion to this masterpeice of words and thoughts- it was a great experience for me to get inside the head (even if it meant that at times my stomach turned (ie the cucumber scene) of a lifestyle I will hopefully never know and a person who I would never under anyother circumstances have the privy to hear a story from. Isn't that what good fiction is about?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an incredibly well told story that lets you see the other side of a life you never even may have known existed.