Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh

I've been having trouble coming up with something to say about this book other than that it is deeply unsettling. Because it is profoundly, deeply, unsettling. Eileen, from the remove of fifty years, tells us about a momentous week in her life when she was 24. Anorexic, friendless, and the sole caretaker of her alcoholic father, Eileen should cut a pitiable figure. Instead, we're treated to the innermost dredges of her unhappy soul and left with a disgusting taste in our mouth. Helpful hint: don't read this if you are remotely depressed. It will suck you down into a black pit of hatred for humanity.

It's pretty remarkable that Moshfegh managed to make a person for whom we should feel sympathy so exceptionally unlikable. Don't get me wrong, the book is incredibly well-done. We are so firmly embedded in Eileen's mind that it was sometimes hard to get out of it upon putting the book down. And it was honestly a little refreshing to be reminded that we all have darkness in us, and that we all have our strange little quirks of personality. Is Eileen a product of her loveless upbringing or would she have been as unpleasant regardless, Moshfegh makes us wonder. Is her final act in that miserable part of her life a redeeming one, or the opposite? I'd love to hear any other reader's comments on this troubling novel, because even a week later I don't quite know what to think.

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