The book Eileen was recommended to me by two different people, and they both made it sound extremely dark. And it is. It's the story of a 24-year-old woman who takes care of her alcoholic father and works at a boys' prison. It's even set in the extreme Northeast in the dark of winter. Dark days, dark nights, bitter cold. This is a dark book.
Now, for the part I got to find out for myself. The writing in this novel elevates this novel to a thing of beauty. Despite all the unhappy people doing horrible things, I felt my spirit soaring due to the masterful writing. I had to keep reminding myself of all the darkness, even with the narrator's constantly talking about all her miseries. Actually that may be why she keeps talking about everything that's wrong with her life. Sure, it's self-pity. I get that. But the luminescent language and intelligent, experienced distance (the narrator is the Eileen's current self, now worldly and wise after decades of living) made me feel like reading this book akin to drifting lazily in a pool in the warm summer sun, to eating perfect cantaloupe sorbet, to riding a unicorn.
I cannot recommend this book enough.
There was a point in this novel where the bottom dropped out (this is not a spoiler--narrator Eileen talks about it early in the story). I knew something was going to happen, something big. It's foreshadowed over and over. I knew it was coming. And then it happened. I was so stunned that I had to set the book aside to process it. I had no idea. It was surprising and perfect and turned my world upside down.
I repeat: I cannot recommend this book enough. I wish I could buy hundreds of copies and pass them out like Halloween candy (but, you know, to adults).
This novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I see why. I would have shortlisted it too, had anyone asked me. The prize will be announced on October 25. I will be checking my Facebook feed to see who wins. If the other novels on the shortlist are anywhere near the caliber of this one, then I would be doing myself a favor to read them all.
Did I mention? Read this book. Seriously. Eileen. By Ottessa Moshfegh. Absolutely luminous.
Galleys for Eileen were provided by the publisher through NetGalley, and I am no grateful they did!