Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-05-11
- Reviewer: Staff
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.)