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By Ottessa Moshfegh
272 pages; Penguin

The title character of Eileen could've walked straight out of one of Patricia Highsmith's moody noirs or Alfred Hitchcock's suspense films. And like those masters, Moshfegh has a knack for keeping you guessing. Everything about Eileen's life suggests entrapment, from the house where she lives with her moody, hard-drinking father to her day job at a prison. But while she's nursing dark, near-suicidal thoughts ("People died all the time. Why couldn't I?"), a glimmer of light comes into her life in the form of a new co-worker—setting in motion a crime story that is at once seductive and provocative. Eileen won the PEN/Hemingway Award for a debut work of fiction, and it's not hard to see why: Moshfegh has a superb command of language and tone, elevating its downbeat story by drawing us deep into turmoil of a young woman desperate to break free of her small-town life.