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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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Sharey on 02-10-17
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.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
By S. Yates on 01-09-18
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.
14 of 15 people found this review helpful