*some spoilers ahead*
Eileen Dunlop is a twenty-something who leads a very depressing and somewhat demented life. Set in the 60’s, she works in the administrative office of a boy’s prison, and lives with her father who is an alcoholic. Eileen is overly dramatic about virtually everything, and chooses to spend her time wallowing in her grief which is over seemingly nothing (her crush not feeling the same way about her, for example, which leads her to stalk him in the evening to make sure he isn’t dating someone else. She has valid reasons to be sad about her life that stem from her past, but I think it’s clear she has done enough wallowing without attempting to make a change; that is, until this particular Christmas which turns out to be her last in the hometown she fondly refers to as “X-ville”. Eileen becomes obsessed with the newest employee at the boy’s prison and is doing everything possible to impress her so this woman will think she is cool and worthy of being a friend/confidant, but does she take it too far?
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh is a dark and twisted novel you will either love or detest. I suppose I fall into the first category of readers because I was entertained by all of the aspects of the story which readers of the second camp complained about. This observation is based solely on the Goodreads reviews I read both before and while reading this book. The negative reviews were filled with complaints about the story which were essential to Eileen’s character, (constant, in-depth descriptions about bodily functions being among the most-hated) leading me to believe these readers were lost to this particular type of story before it even began.
Without focusing on the reality of what a sad book this really is, it actually is quite a masterpiece. I was really impressed by it on the whole and read it pretty quickly. I don’t know why, though, I couldn’t give it a full five star rating on Goodreads, but I felt good about giving if a solid four stars. If you are looking for a dark, character-centric read, this is the one for you.