Review for "My Year of Rest and Relaxation" by Ottessa Moshfegh (2018)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I’ll say this and I’ll say it again–at this point in my life I will read anything that Ottessa Moshfegh writes. I’ve read all of her novels (McGlue, Eileen, and her short story collection Homesick for Another World) and I consider them not just reading, but something that, for me, is more of an experience. You find yourself entering another world through her words, a parallel universe. Most of the time the universe that Moshfegh writes about is full of ugly and repulsive people who are trapped somehow–in drinking, drugs, self-loathing.
“My Year of Rest and Relaxation” follows the same theme of unlikable characters that Moshfegh is known for. The unnamed narrator is young, thin, blonde, and pretty and reminds you of this every 10 pages or so. She is wealthy, lives in a great apartment in NYC and works in a hip art gallery. However, she is depressed. Under a “mask” of having it all, she grows up with cold and unloving parents. Her boyfriend treats her like a doormat. The one friend that she has, Reva, is not really her friend, but a punching bag for her passive-aggressive anger.
In response, the narrator decides to take a year off to sleep, and, in her words, ‘hibernate.’ She finds a psychiatrist in a phone book and tells elaborate lies to get every drug imaginable to sleep and stay that way. For an entire year, the narrator exists in this dreamlike, comatose state of waking, sleeping, recalling periodic visits with her friend, watching old movies, pondering the past, and sleeping some more. She comes up occasionally for air to get coffee, or realize that she’s done weird things while under (partying, shopping, talking to strangers online, etc). When she emerges from her year of sleep, the results are quite profound and (dare I say it) bittersweet.
As with Moshfegh’s last novel, Eileen, the plot is not the strong suit here. This is more of a character study with a depressed, highly unlikable character at the center. As with Moshfegh’s other novels, I could not stop reading this book, even as the character’s behavior completely repulsed me. That’s the gift of this writer though, she makes the ugly somehow appealing.
Definitely read this one. 5 stars.