Well, Moshfegh's writing continues to be soaked in the repugnancy of the flesh, as were her previous two published books. But here there is also a forceful, difficult to resist lure to it. Eileen hates her body and treats it with the disgust she believes it deserves - starving it, leaving it unwashed, suffocating it in layers of oversized clothes, purging her colon in fearful sounding laxative binges. Unwillingness to have anyone else see her naked flesh is her main reason for not killing herself. She works in a prison, an outer environment to match her inner state. She is consumed by self-loathing.

But Eileen actually takes hesitant steps to develop beyond this negative fixation on the flesh. She's a virgin, in keeping with her negative attitude towards the body, but lusts after one of the prison guards, the subtly named Randy, in the fairly normal manner. She views with awe and admiration the stylish new prison educator, Rebecca, and admires her well-adjusted body image. Look, we've got characters here whose bodies aren't written as disgusting! Finally, the book is narrated by Eileen in old age looking back on this, her far past, with a rueful yet self-forgiving attitude toward her previous hang-ups, having been married a few times and now apparently a healthy liberal old gal.

Eileen is a memorable character, and this novel is primarily a character study. It makes a nod towards thriller territory towards the end, but I think it's a fairly weak nod. Primarily this novel is about getting to know Eileen, who is difficult to like but at the same time sympathetic. You'll remember her.

CALS_Lee's rating:
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