Better Off Read is a book club collaboration between Her Bookshop and The Porch, focusing on books that you'll definitely be better off having read.
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 to the big city. 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.
Played out against the snowy landscape of coastal New England in the days leading up to Christmas, young Eileen’s story is told from the gimlet-eyed perspective of the now much older narrator. 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.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
“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.”--Washington Post
“Eileen is anything but generic. Eileen is as vivid and human as they come . . . 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 . . . There is that wonderful tension between wanting to slow down and bathe in the language and imagery, and the impulse to race to see what happens, how it happens.”--The New York Times Book Review
“A shadowy and superbly told story of how inner turmoil morphs into outer chaos.”--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Literary psychological suspense at its best.”--Booklist (starred review)
“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.”--NPR
Better Off Read is a book club with an added twist: an optional writing exercise for interested participants to complete before the event. For this book, the prompt is: If you could “disappear” for a day, what would you do? Where would you go? Again, this part is completely optional, and those who wish may share what they’ve written at the end of the meeting.
When: Sunday, March 18 + 25 (two dates!), 2018, 4:30 to 6:00 pm
Where: Her Bookshop (1043 West Eastland Ave.)
How Much: $18 + tax. Each participant will receive one paperback copy of Eileen, available for pickup at the shop. Wine and treats will be served, and participants will also receive 10% off purchases at Her Bookshop the day of the event.
Both gatherings are full. Stay tuned for news about our next pick. Newsletter subscribers get first dibs on spots--make sure you're subscribed!
Previous BETTER OFF READ Books
Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (January 7 & 14, 2018)
Broken River by J. Robert Lennon (October 22, 2017)
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman (August 6, 2017)
Stoner by John Williams (May 21, 2017)
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (March 19, 2017)
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton (January 22, 2017)
My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff (October 30, 2016)
Better Off Read is a collaboration between Her Bookshop and The Porch, Nashville’s independent center for writing.