by Ottessa Moshfegh
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 neighbourhood 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 counsellor at the prison, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. But her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.