Booklist Reviews 2015 June #1
*Starred Review* Eileen, perhaps one of the most damaged characters in recent fiction, is the narrator of this dark look back at her life during a 1960s Christmas week. Eileen lost her mother when she was in high school; her sister is the pride of the family, but the two women have no relationship; Eileen's father is an alcoholic, a cop forced into retirement and now heading toward dementia, a man 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 leave 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 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, which leads to a shocking ending. Dark as night, but literary psychological suspense at its best. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2015 March #1
A Plimpton Prize winner whose McGlue was chosen for the inaugural Fence Modern Prize in Prose and by Vanity Fair as one of 2014's best books, Moshfegh was all the rage on book blogs and websites last fall. In "Top Indie Fiction: 15 Key Titles Beyond the Best Sellers List for Fall 2014," I said, "it would have been no surprise to see [McGlue] coming from a major literary house, so look there for Moshfegh's next." And here it is, a quietly tense tale starring nondescript Eileen Dunlop, who tends to an alcoholic father while working at a boys' correctional facility. She does a little shoplifting but nothing really bad until brightly lit Rebecca Saint John lands at the facility and turns her head with the promise of friendship.[Page 69]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
LJ Reviews 2015 June #1
Initially, this novel reads like a memoir of a drab, friendless young woman, Eileen Dunlop, a 24-year-old clerical worker in a young men's prison near Boston. Her actions and innermost thoughts in the days leading up to Christmas 1964 are recounted in Karl Ove Knausgaard-like detail describing intense self-loathing, a miserable codependent relationship with her demented, alcoholic father, and even her bowel movements. As her father's grudging caretaker, Eileen suffers drinking bouts of her own, and their house is filthy and in disrepair. When a beautiful, educated woman joins the prison's staff as a new counselor, Eileen becomes her clinging friend. But we know Eileen is now an independent, older woman, so the reader is drawn along, wondering how she frees herself from her bleak existence. VERDICT Those familiar with Moshfegh's earlier award-winning novel McGlue may not be as surprised when this tale shapeshifts into a crime thriller, but readers of all kinds will relish this well-crafted fiction. Moshfegh's ability to render Eileen's dreary tale so compelling is testament to her narrative skills. [See Prepub Alert, 2/9/15.]—Reba Leiding, emeritus, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA[Page 94]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2015 May #2
Winner of both the Paris Review's Plimpton Prize and a Stegner Fellowship, Moshfegh moves beyond her previous short fiction achievements with this dark and unnerving debut novel. In 1964, Eileen Dunlop is 24 years old, living with her cruel, alcoholic father, and working at Moorehead, a juvenile detention center for boys. She also spends a lot of time hating herself ("I looked like nothing special") and plotting her exodus from the small New England town where she's been trapped. Eileen's perspective is one of hindsight, some 50 years later, looking back on her final days of quiet, isolated misery before the rest of her life begins, a very different life we know will happen without knowing much more. The book's opening evokes a stark kind of empathy for Eileen, who is extreme in her oddness and aversion to personal hygiene, but still quite likable. Unfortunately, some 100 pages in, she is still announcing her imminent departure. As the claustrophobia and filth of her circumstances become more suffocating over the course of the novel, they seem more redundant than effective. With the arrival of the mysterious Rebecca, an alleged education specialist at Moorehead, Eileen's momentum (and the narrative's) finally picks up somewhat, although it will still feel stagnant to some readers. (Aug.)[Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC