Eileen is a remarkable piece of writing, always dark and surprising, sometimes ugly and occasionally hilarious. Its first-person narrator is one of the strangest, most messed-up, most pathetic — and yet, in her own inimitable way, endearing — misfits I’ve encountered in fiction. Trust me, you have never read anything remotely like Eileen ... Eileen may bore some readers and repulse others, but those with a yen for the perverse may well embrace its unsettling pleasures and exceptional writing.
Charmingly disturbing. Delightfully dour. Pleasingly perverse. These are some of the oxymorons that ran through my mind as I read Eileen, Ottessa Moshfegh's intense, flavorful, remarkable new novel. 'Funny awful' might be another one. I marveled at myself for enjoying the scenes I was witnessing, and wondered what dark magic the author had employed to make me smile at them ... Eileen could have stepped out of Flannery O'Connor or Shirley Jackson. Wonderfully horrible Humbert Humbert also comes to mind. Eileen may be 'unfit for the world,' but I was pulling for her. I wanted her to escape the prison of life with father, wished that her dreams of fleeing to New York might come true.
Moshfegh writes beautiful sentences. One after the other they unwind — playful, shocking, wise, morbid, witty, searingly sharp. The beginning of this novel is so impressive, so controlled yet whimsical, fresh and thrilling, you feel she can do anything. You wouldn’t care if nothing much ever happened, if it all weren’t leading up to a crime. But it is ... Rebecca and her motivations, once we learn them, feel pasted in from another book. They do not square with the universe Moshfegh so meticulously created in the first part of the novel. We want Rebecca to be as twisted and interesting as Eileen, as tortured and menacing as her father.