The New York Times selected Moshfegh as one of the best of our new female authors, and Eileen is certainly an intriguing character study. The year is 1964 and Eileen Dunlop, age 24, lives with her alcoholic, unloving father who is a retired policeman. Her mother died when she was 19, and her older sister lives in the same New England town, but they never see each other. Eileen works in a juvenile detention facility where her main duty seems to be patting down mothers who come to visit their sons. Eileen dreams of leaving her drunk, mean-spirited father and her boring, ungratifying job and heading to New York City, but she doesn’t have the wherewithal to do it. She can be pathetic, sympathetic, self-destructive, unbalanced, insecure and mean.
Although Moshfegh claims that when she began writing this novel it was humorous, I can’t think of one funny moment in it. In fact, depression and loneliness permeate the whole book. If you’re looking for a read that will cheer you up, it’s not Eileen.