Author: Otessa Moshfegh
Publisher: Penguin Press
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Mystery
Release Date: August 18th 2015
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 a complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.
What I quickly realized while reading this novel is that it is nothing like it’s advertised. I thought this was going to be centered around a mystery, or a tragic event that occurred, but that was not the case. This book is not the least bit plot driven. In fact, the main plot point doesn’t happen until two-thirds of the way through the book. Instead, this book is a character study centered around Eileen.
I have never despised a character more than I did Eileen. She is self-obsessed, unhygienic, insecure, a borderline alcoholic, a stalker, and utterly despicable. Reading about her day to day life and her thoughts was so upsetting and frankly, a little boring. I understand that there are some characters that are going to be hard to like, but it was impossible to like Eileen. It was impossible to like any of the characters. I felt no empathy or connection to any of them.
The plot was so slow that I found it a chore to keep reading. I was interested in the big event that happened, but once it did, it was a major let down because it was so boring and unoriginal.
The only tolerable thing about this novel was the fact that the writing was very graphic and caused me to have a physical reaction (even if the reaction was mostly disgust). I applaud Ottessa Moshfegh for being able to elicit such a response from the reader, but the writing was unable to make up for how dull the story was and how unlikeable Eileen was. I don’t recommend this novel unless you’re really in the mood for a character study.
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.