Eileen is the narrator of this dark look back at her life during a 1960’s Christmas week. Eileen has to be one of the most damaged characters in fiction. She lost her mother when she was in high school, her sister is the pride of the family but they have no relationship, and her father is an alcoholic, a cop forced into retirement and now heading towards dementia, who has mentally abused Eileen her whole life.
Her life is a horror; living in squalor, taking care of her abusive father, driving an old car with an exhaust problem that forces her to drive with the windows open, even during those frigid New England winters. She works as a secretary at a boy’s prison, a discouraging job at best. She obsesses about her bodily functions, has strange sexual fantasies, (although at 24, she is still a virgin,) and she is stalking one of the prison guards.
There is no respite from the darkness here until Rebecca shows up at the prison, ostensibly to create an education program for the boys. Eileen is enamored of the beautiful Harvard graduate and desperate for a friend. That friendship turns into something truly ugly that leads to a shocking ending. This is literary psychological suspense at its best.
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8/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
EILEEN by Ottessa Moshfegh. Penguin Press (August 18, 2015). ISBN 978-1594206627. 272p.