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Publisher's Summary

A lonely young woman working in a boys' prison outside Boston in the early 60s is pulled into a very strange crime, in a mordant, harrowing story of obsession and suspense, by one of the brightest new voices in fiction.

So here we are. My name was Eileen Dunlop. Now you know me. I was 24 years old then, and had a job that paid 57 dollars a week as a kind of secretary at a private juvenile correctional facility for teenage boys. I think of it now as what it really was for all intents and purposes - a prison for boys. I will call it Moorehead. Delvin Moorehead was a terrible landlord I had years later, and so to use his name for such a place feels appropriate. In a week, I would run away from home and never go back. This is the story of how I disappeared.

The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father's caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys' prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father's messes.

When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at Moorehead, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings. Creepy, mesmerizing, and sublimely funny, in the tradition of Shirley Jackson and early Vladimir Nabokov, this powerful debut novel enthralls and shocks, and introduces one of the most original new voices in contemporary literature.

©2015 Ottessa Moshfegh (P)2015 Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Strange, unsettling, but engrossing

I am incredibly torn on how to rate and review this book. It is an odd story, at once engrossing and rambling and uncomfortable and listless and troubling. It is not a mystery or a coming of age story, though at times there are tinges of these well-worn genres (though grossly distorted). It is not a love story or a thriller, though again, elements suggest a twisted version of each. I kept waiting for something major to happen, for characters to be more fully explained, for gaps to be filled in, and they weren't. What I ended up getting was a compulsive portrait of a young woman, ill at ease in her body and in the world. The narrator relays events of her life, concentrating on her 24th year, when we are obliquely told something momentous happened. The event is slowly approached, as the now elderly narrator sketches her background and thoughts, idiosyncrasies and naivete, dark motives and aching needs. In various asides we know she had to flee home, that she reinvented herself, that she made her way in the world. As she recollects her past, we know that she fantasized about leaving home, killing her father, making something of her life. In the end, the event we have been building towards feels anticlimactic and her relationship with another character (the enigmatic Rebecca) is left feeling half-formed. Though this is something that normally aggravates me in books, it doesn't ruin the experience. While the anticlimax of the central event came and went a bit too quickly, the nascent relationship between the titular Eileen and Rebecca feels appropriately half-formed, almost highlighting the impressionable and unstable mental state Eileen operated under. While I am unsure of how to categorize this book and likewise wary of recommending it, I can say it kept me rapt and ill at ease and that it was unlike anything else I've read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Interesting

I was captivated by this deliciously dark psychological narrative. The narrator was perfect as Eileen. She became the character, someone who sounded unattractive, yet gave you ambivalent reasons to feel torn to empathize with her.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • nick
  • Arizona, USA
  • 02-02-17

Incredible!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, but probably not to everyone. It really is very strange and dark.

Any additional comments?

I had been reading about Ottessa Moshfegh in various places. I think she has a few awards already and I'm sure over time will get a lot of much deserved recognition. So, I finally gave in and dug into her work. She has been compared to Flannery O'Connor. Only after finishing the book and perhaps along with a few of her short stories do I see why. It's dark, grotesque, strange and beautifully crafted. As a writer I loved this book. I'm excited to read the rest of her stories. That being said, I probably would not recommend this to everyone. I would say the same thing about some of her short stories. If you're feeling adventurous though, read it! She really is a great writer!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Beautifully written

The character development was so thorough, I Could nearly feel myself under those layers of skin and death mask. It's an amazing book and I would be shocked if someone doesn't pick up the movie rights to it



nearly feel

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Gives you that unbearable feeling & I loved it!

The main character is disturbing and normal. She feels and does things most of us do, but she acts on her creepy impulses. The narrative is wicked and character development is impeccable. I highly recommend this story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Vivid, unpredictable

The author created such a vivid picture, I felt like I could see, smell, touch every aspect of this story. It's dark, sometimes putrid. But utterly fascinating and kind of voyeuristic feeling. Would highly recommend.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

dark, funny and sad

Would you listen to Eileen again? Why?

if I listened to books over again, I would listen to Eileen again... there is so much depth in her perspective that I think I might gain more insight into her. I really enjoy how she was able to look at her life and the world with such a sharp and jaded eye

Who was your favorite character and why?

I loved Eileen... she had such a sardonic outlook, such a deadpan approach to her sad circumstances, that I fell in love with her humor and intelligence

Which character – as performed by Alyssa Bresnahan – was your favorite?

Alyssa's performance really made Eileen... she really seemed to be able to express her darkness so well.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Weird and Meandering

I saw this book on a list of 9 great winter thrillers last year and added it to my library. I'm not sure it's really a thriller, and I'm not sure how it made that list. I knew it was going to be a character driven story, and it did entertain me to some degree, but I expected it to have a plot. By the time we got to any sort of action, what you got wasn't really enough to make the rest of it worthwhile. The action should have come earlier, and there was really no payoff for the reader at the end. Not sure I would recommend this one, but I can see how some people might enjoy it.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Pretty, pretty darn good book.

Very dark yet compelling book. I was glued to its from beginning to its end!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I'm no better than I should be.

And neither are you.

But as Eileen will show you, that condition does not prevent the rising to love, just as no given moral code can ensure the practice of justice or right.

You will see yourself many times over in this story, just as I did.

I loved Eileen. Hats off to Ms. Bresnahan for giving us her clear, true voice.

Jay deLancie-Thomas

2 of 3 people found this review helpful