Eileen is about what it means to
look back on our foundational moments, about how memories are deceivingly
amorphous, about the complexity of female friendship and desire, and about how
poverty and violence seep out to stain everything in their proximity. Eileen is
a character you may not like, but she's someone whose story will make you
think and feel deeply, succeeding in the way that only the greatest stories
do. Recommended By Cosima C., Powells.com
As blistering a character study as I've ever come across, Eileen is flat-out brilliant.
Suffering from a severe case of narcissistic personality disorder, 24-year-old Eileen is so wrapped up in her own mind, other people barely exist for her. Her dead mother, her drunken father, her absent sister: they're mainly just a nuisance in her daily life. Her coworkers, her boss: they're mere shadows in her periphery. Even the man she lusts after is just a shell for her own amusement.
That is, until she meets Rebecca: everything stops, everything changes, nothing else will ever matter. Their friendship blossoms, and when Rebecca has a problem bigger than she can handle on her own, Eileen is right there to help.
Don't miss this scorching, intricate, horrifying portrait of the friend you hope to never meet. Excellent! Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
An alcoholic dad, a prison for delinquent boys, a narrator who is both repulsive and endearing. Eileen is dark stuff, but it’s also really fun to read. Give this strange, surprising novel a try, and you’ll understand why some have suggested Ottessa Moshfegh could be the next literary sensation. Recommended By Moses M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A lonely young woman working in a boys’ prison outside Boston in the early 60s is pulled into a very strange crime, in a mordant, harrowing story of obsession and suspense, by one of the brightest new voices in fiction
So here we are. My name was Eileen Dunlop. Now you know me. I was twenty-four years old then, and had a job that paid fifty-seven dollars a week as a kind of secretary at a private juvenile correctional facility for teenage boys. I think of it now as what it really was for all intents and purposes—a prison for boys. I will call it Moorehead. Delvin Moorehead was a terrible landlord I had years later, and so to use his name for such a place feels appropriate. In a week, I would run away from home and never go back.
This is the story of how I disappeared.
The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at Moorehead, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.
Played out against the snowy landscape of coastal New England in the days leading up to Christmas, young Eileen’s story is told from the gimlet-eyed perspective of the now much older narrator. Creepy, mesmerizing, and sublimely funny, in the tradition of Shirley Jackson and early Vladimir Nabokov, this powerful debut novel enthralls and shocks, and introduces one of the most original new voices in contemporary literature.
"Eileen is anything but generic. Eileen is as vivid and human as they come...Moshfegh, whose novella, 'McGlue,' was published last year, writes beautiful sentences. One after the other they unwind — playful, shocking, wise, morbid, witty, searingly sharp. The beginning of this novel is so impressive, so controlled yet whimsical, fresh and thrilling, you feel she can do anything....There is that wonderful tension between wanting to slow down and bathe in the language and imagery, and the impulse to race to see what happens, how it happens." The New York Times Book Review
"Wonderfully unsettling first novel....When the denouement comes, it’s as shocking as it is thrilling. Part of the pleasure of the book (besides the almost killing tension) is that Eileen is mordantly funny...this tale belongs to both the past and future Eileen, a truly original character who is gloriously unlikable, dirty, startling — and as ferociously human as the novel that bears her name." San Francisco Chronicle
"…It is in that gritty, claustrophobic atmosphere that Ms. Moshfegh’s talents are most apparent. This young writer already possesses a remarkably sighted view into the bleakest alleys of the psyche." Wall Street Journal
"If Jim Thompson had married Patricia Highsmith – imagine that household – they might have conspired together to dream up something like Eileen. It’s blacker than black and cold as an icicle. It’s also brilliantly realised and horribly funny." John Banville
"The great power of this book, which won the PEN/Hemingway debut fiction award last month, is that Eileen is never simply a literary gargoyle; she is painfully alive and human, and Ottessa Moshfegh writes her with a bravura wildness that allows flights of expressionistic fantasy to alternate with deadpan matter of factness…As an evocation of physical and psychological squalor, Eileen is original, courageous and masterful." The Guardian
About the Author
Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from Boston. She was awarded the Plimpton Prize for her stories in The Paris Review and granted a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is currently a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford.
Ottessa Moshfegh on PowellsBooks.Blog
My short story collection is called Homesick for Another World
. It's a book I worked on for four years. It begins with a story of an alcoholic Catholic school teacher who quits her job once her ex-husband pays her to stop harassing him with early morning phone calls, and ends with a tale of a girl in a foreign land deluded by superstition...