Boston writer Ottessa Moshfegh new novel Eileen was a 2015 Book Expo America Buzz book and I can see why it was chose out of all the books presented at the expo. It is a slow boil of a book that has an ending you won’t see coming. Eileen is a pretty boring character but she knows it and tells you throughout the first person narrative of the novel.
While I was reading it reminded me of Zoe Heller, Patricia Highsmith , with a dash of Joyce Carol Oates. It opens up with the character of Eileen in an unknown place. In fact she tells us that she comes from a town in Massachusetts called X-ville. She can’t and doesn’t want to remember where she came from but she can’t stop telling us about the traumas she had to deal with growing up and her current situation in life. Along the way we meet her alcoholic father, her dying mother, her disinterested sister and her employees at work who barely tolerate her. She works at a prison for boys and you guessed, hates her job there too.
One day a person named Rebecca starts working at the prison and her dull life changes. Nothing too major but enough for Eileen to feel like somebody actually wants to be her friend. Her father is truly awful to her and spends his days drinking and getting into trouble. He is an ex-town cop so the town puts up with his antics like threatening to shoot kids on the block or crash his car. There is a gun that he owns that is staring at you throughout the novel waiting to go off.
Now one could say Eileen is a truly unlikable character. She hates herself, her life, her family and pretty much anything she comes by. So you may ask yourself reading this review, “Why would I want to read a book like that?” The answer is because watching Ms. Moshfegh write a character that keeps you on the edge of your seat waiting to see what the big story Eileen is waiting to tell you.
She hints that she is happy with her life now as an old woman but you wonder where she is. Is she telling you this from prison? Is she telling it from another country, or she is just in an ordinary American city? By the novel’s end you get the answer and the cover of the book is a picture of a car at night with the headlights on. It’s truly all you need to know that will make you want to step into Eileen’s car and go for a ride. My only advice is fasten your seatbelt it’s going to be a very interesting ride!