When I wasn’t able to immediately download Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation from the library, I opted to read her earlier acclaimed novel “Eileen” (short-listed for the Man Booker Prize) to read in the meantime. It’s a very strange story about a damaged young woman named Eileen Dunlop. At the age of 24 she still lives with her widowed father, an emotionally abusive alcoholic who constantly belittles her while depending on her for his daily gin runs. Her father is a retired cop in their small town and because of his former status in the community his fellow officers enable and tolerate his increasingly bizarre behaviours. It’s through his connections that Eileen is given a job working at Moorehouse, a local juvenile prison facility where she performs minor clerical work processing incoming teenage inmates.

The story covers the span of a few weeks late in 1964 and is told in the first person by Eileen as she looks back on her life from the perspective of an old woman whose adventures, mistakes and stories are behind her (which makes her a baby boomer). Working at Moorehouse is boring and Eileen’s only passion is her great crush on her coworker and a former inmate Randy. She loves everything about him and spends her solitary weekends surveilling his apartment from her father’s old Dodge to make sure he doesn’t already have a girlfriend.

The constant put-downs by her late mother and her drunken father have left Eileen emotionally beaten up. She hates herself and the resulting lack of self-esteem is manifested in an eating disorder and inattention to her personal appearance. She neglects her diet as well as her grooming and wears her dead mother’s old clothes. Then, a bright, beautiful new woman called Rebecca joins the prison staff and Eileen’s life takes on new energy and sense of optimism.

I became engaged in Eileen’s story right from page one. She frequently alludes to what happened later and that mystery is part of what kept me reading. Despite the entire series of events spanning only a few weeks, it progresses in chronological order which is how I personally like to read a book. Stories that jump back and forth in time always annoy and confuse me. The biggest appeal of reading Eileen is the author’s off-beat writing style and black humour. Eileen is a sympathetic character and her peculiar perspective on life is fascinating. We’re constantly rooting for her and want her to win.

From tolerating and enabling a father she clearly hates to functioning in her dreary life on a daily basis, Eileen’s story sounds like it would be boring and depressing but it’s not. I loved it and blasted through it in a couple of days. Now, I can hardly wait to read her latest book My Year of Rest and Relaxation. If you liked Eleanor Oliphant, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. I’d rate Eileen 9 out of 10.

Click here to order Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh from Amazon.

Lynda Davis

As an early Baby Boomer, born in 1947, it seems to me that as we approach our retirement years, Boomers have gone from being the energy driving our nation to slowly becoming invisible. We risk losing our identity as society remains stubbornly youth-centric. And the irony is that Gen Xers and Ys are not the majority; we are. BOOMERBROADcast is my platform for being the voice of Baby Boomers, women in particular. We've generated a lot of changes over the decades but there's still a long way to go. After a 40-year career in the corporate world, I've taken up expressing the observations and concerns of our generation. Instead of pounding the pavement in my bellbottoms with a cardboard sign, I'm pounding my laptop (I learned to type on a manual typewriter and old habits die hard). If you have issues or concerns you would like voiced or have comments on what I've voiced, I'd love to hear from you. We started breaking the rules in the sixties and now that we're in our sixties it's no time to become complacent. Hope you'll stay tuned and if you like BOOMERBROADcast, share it with your friends. Let's rock n' roll! If you would like to be notified whenever I publish a new posting, click on the little blue box in the lower right of your screen that says +Follow→ Lynda Davis

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Let me know what you think when you read it. I’d love to hear your impression. You’d probably enjoy Eleanor Oliphant too. Thanks for your comments.

  2. I have been through the phase of low self esteem & putting down by family and it took immense courage to get out of it. I had to change. And one day ..just like a click..i felt different..i changed..I wouldn’t say its all perfect now, but at least i am able to handle it in a more stable emotional manner….here i am able to relate to Eileen though her’s seems to be a more difficult version of mine..Short & apt review..Thanks Lynda..Will read it soon.

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