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My Year of Rest and Relaxation

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2018)
A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature. Our narrator has many of the advantages of life, on the surface. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

This story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs, designed to heal us from our alienation from this world, shows us how reasonable, even necessary, that alienation sometimes is. Blackly funny, both merciless and compassionate – dangling its legs over the ledge of 9/11 – this novel is a showcase for the gifts of one of America’s major young writers working at the height of her powers.

289 pages, Paperback

First published July 10, 2018

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About the author

Ottessa Moshfegh

41 books14.7k followers
Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England. Eileen, her first novel, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Death in Her Hands, her second and third novels, were New York Times bestsellers. She is also the author of the short story collection Homesick for Another World and a novella, McGlue. She lives in Southern California.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 41,313 reviews
Profile Image for Ash.
359 reviews249 followers
December 18, 2018
TL;DR: I fucking hated this book. My Year of Rest and Relaxation could have been good. I was expecting something like You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine: a weird, disturbing book about a young woman dissociating from modern society. Instead I got 300 pages of vapid bullshit that seems unreasonably proud of itself. If you're here looking for recommendations, I'd give this one a pass and read the Kleeman instead.

Another entry in the baffling 'women can be assholes too!' movement, My Year of Rest and Relaxation is all smoke and mirrors: Moshfegh is a good enough writer on a sentence level to make it seem like her book is about something, but I can assure you that it is absolutely not. There's so little substance in the actual text that I'm not even sure how to go about this review. I've been reading good reviews all morning to try and figure out what I missed, but a lot of people who wrote positive reviews didn't actually like it either: it's an unpleasant reading experience, and a lot of the book's high ratings seem to be on the dubious merit of that unpleasantness. I wonder if the sunk cost fallacy isn't at work here: if someone published this and someone edited it and someone nominated the author's previous work for awards, then this must be good, right? We wouldn't all have put so much effort into a boring hack. I don't think that writing about nasty people doing nasty things takes any particular skill, though, or that it has intrinsic value - the only skill seems to be in a marketing strategy which has convinced us that if we don't like a book that means it's good, actually.

I'm not sure how to go about this other than by listing this book's apparent strengths, according to its fans:

The characters are so unlikeable!

It's probably clear at this point that I don't think writing unlikeable characters for the sake of being able to is very compelling; it seems conceited on the part of the author, and a bit like I'm being invited in on a mean spirited joke. It's strange to me that this is a draw for other readers. I'm glad that Moshfegh has come to the conclusion that rich, pretty people can be unlikeable; I don't have any particular desire to discuss that with her at length.

Moshfegh has a response for complaints like mine, from an interview she did with the Guardian for her novel Eileen: "When I ask Moshfegh about the reception of the novel, she rails against those who 'want to know in this juicy way why I have written such an unlikable character. I just want to say: ‘How dare you?’' We live in a world in which mass murderers are re-elected, she says, yet it’s an unlikable female character that is found to be offensive: it’s 'sexist and idiotic'."

I think that calling this out as sexist - which is the typical answer, and not a Moshfegh original by any means - is a smokescreen. We're not talking about an actual woman who exists in the world: we're talking about a character that someone intentionally made up. Characters don't end up this horrible by accident, and it's worth questioning why someone sat down and labored over a character so unrealistically nasty. I really don't think there's a good reason, which is why the question is always met with immediate deflection. It seems like a sneaky way for female authors to show how much better and smarter they are than other women while pretending that they're practicing some radical act of feminism.

But it's so weird and dark and disturbing!

The narrator was so removed from her own experiences that this didn't read as very dark or disturbing to me, but even if it had, I don't think that's an especially compelling reason to read something. (Incidentally, this is also why I've drifted away from Chuck Palahniuk.) Most of my favorite books this year were disturbing but they were also about something, and that's why I liked them; a book that's trying to be disturbing at the expense of having a plot or even one character that you can empathize with is like a bad jump scare. It works, but it's easy and shallow and forgettable. It takes no particular skill and has no meaning. I've considered that this actually is the point - that books don't have to mean anything, that they can just exist as objects untethered from any deeper philosophical inquiry - but it turns out that is a point after all, it's just a stupid one.

This book is a detailed example of what it is like to be depressed.

You know what? Sure, I'll give it this one. Depression makes the world boring and it can make depressed people very difficult to like. I'm not sure that taking a deep dive into "depressed people are self centered and horrible" is a helpful or kind thing to do, but it's at least not wholly inaccurate.

I do take offense at our culture's continued fascination with the idea that people can be both rich and depressed. I realize, as all depressed people do, that depression isn't contingent on our material circumstances: I fucking know that rich people can be depressed. I also know that having money lifts a huge burden off of their shoulders. You can't buy happiness but you can certainly buy therapy, medication, and the time to properly take care of yourself - things which are categorically denied to people who aren't very wealthy or very privileged. I am not the only one who drags my depressed ass to work every day for the privilege of not being able to afford the medication that might make it easier to stay alive, and I do not give a single shit about how depressed rich people may or may not be. Let's all agree to stop telling this story in 2019.

But the writing is so charming and funny!

Is it?

The ending is great: it shows that the narrator has grown & changed. Such a punch in the gut! & very uplifting.

There is a trite, stupid little chapter after our narrator has come out of her Infermiterol daze where she starts going outside and feeding squirrels corn flakes in the park. I suppose this is meant to show that she has changed; now, she is capable of seeing beauty and engaging with a world outside of herself. It felt shallow and unearned, but perhaps it was meant to feel shallow and unearned, because then the final chapter of this book is a half-page summary of the narrator discovering that her friend Reva died in the World Trade Center on September 11th. She has recorded a video from the news in which a woman leaps to her death from the burning building. The narrator decides to believe that the woman is Reva, and watches the footage over and over, apparently for years. The book's last line, on which people seem to be fairly divided, is this: There she is, a human being, diving into the unknown, and she is wide awake.

This is an incredibly offensive thing to say, made worse because it's also fucking meaningless. I have the sense that Moshfegh thinks she can get away with this by putting it in the mouth of a horrendous character and giving it a clever little twist: our narrator has spent the past year asleep because she can't face the mundanity of her day to day life, but a woman who has leapt to her death from a burning building is really awake. Do you get it, though? Do you see what she did there? It's a juxtaposition between sleeping and wakefulness and life and death. It's like, you can totally sleepwalk through life and someone dying can be truly awake, you know what I mean?

This is exactly the kind of ~*~deep~*~ shit my friends and I used to come up with when we were 19 and stoned; it's a literary version of that 'real eyes realize real lies' nonsense that we used to post on Myspace. It's dumb word play that's purporting to actually mean something and the fact that it's the last line of this fucking stupid book is infuriating to me. Is it supposed to be funny? Ironic? Am I supposed to think that the narrator is a better person, or just the same shithead that she always was but a year older? Is it a treatise on the meaning of the book? Is it just Ottessa Moshfegh having a laugh that the literary establishment has welcomed her trite, boring nonsense with open arms, or am I supposed to be taking this seriously?

This book defies categorization not because it's tricky, clever, or meaningful, but because it's emotionally and thematically empty. It's not about anything and it has nothing to say. It's a series of images strung together to absolutely no end and its strongest selling point is that with its last line it finally engendered a single emotion in me: incredulous rage.

In the same Guardian interview I mentioned above, Moshfegh said that "[her] writing lets people scrape up against their own depravity, but at the same time it’s very refined … It’s like seeing Kate Moss take a shit." This is a fucking hilariously conceited thing for someone to say, but it also introduces the only worthwhile question I can muster about Moshfegh's work: who is this for? What audience is being allowed to (lol) "scrape up against their own depravity"? I can't say, other than that I'm clearly not a part of it.

When you don't like books like this, people are quick to pin the blame on you: you just don't get it. Things don't have to be likeable to be important. Sometimes, though, there's nothing there to get, and being unlikeable doesn't give something intrinsic value. I hate the idea that important literature can't also be fun, and I hate this senseless hackjob of a book.
Profile Image for Robin.
484 reviews2,617 followers
May 30, 2019
Well, this one went down nice n' easy, like I imagine an Ambien would.

ADMISSION: I'm a little bit in love with this author, this woman who is often maligned for being gross and writing about nasty female characters, for being deliberately provocative relying solely on shock value, and oh don't forget, she's just plain unlikable. All of which makes me say: "SO WHAT?"

Ottessa Moshfegh does write about icky things people do, magnifies the cruel dark bits of life we would rather gloss over. If you need your literature to be overall pleasant and safe, clear of eye gunk and shit and pubic hair, I would give her a wide berth. And that's 100% okay - not every book is for every reader.

But if you're willing to read something dark and dangerous, to laugh at wicked, sardonic humour, to listen to a pitiless, confrontational story, then you are in luck. Plus, that cover. Isn't it fierce?

I felt at home when reading the words in this book. Life is hard! And sometimes many of us wish we could lay our head on the pillow and not wake up for a week or so, thereby avoiding the everyday struggle and banality. Our narrator is tired of her life. She wants to 'hibernate' for one year, and wake up a new person. Not literally a new person - technically she will be the same, but her hope is that she will awake with a brand new outlook. See, her parents died within a few months of each other, and losing them heightened the even more painful, everyday, life-long losses she endured in her family. So even though she's independently wealthy, beautiful and living in Manhattan in the year 2000, she'd rather close her eyes and pass the time in unconsciousness.

She's got an envious, try-hard friend in Reva. She's got Dr. Tuttle, a horrid psychiatrist who enables her pill-popping to the extreme. (Both of these characters are morbidly hilarious.) And she has Trevor, an on-again-off-again relationship that is more abusive than anything else.

Other than that, she's got her drugs, and a VCR with a bunch of Whoopi Goldberg movies.

The pages slide by, in a drugged haze. There's some repetition here: lots of taking pills, watching 80s movies, feeling confused about what might have happened during a blackout, or feeling frustrated at the lack of efficacy of the current chemical cocktail. Never though, did my interest wane. This is a character study expertly rendered. I was watching a person on the very edge of the world, sitting right on the edge, exceptionally alone in her ennui, light as air in her earthly impact. She might just float away, and no one would notice. I understood that existential feeling. And I wanted to know if she would be 'alright'.

Her drugged year ends just before 9/11, which is the most jarring wake-up call Moshfegh could summon.

I recognised a few similarities to Eileen - both protagonists are 24 year old females, drowning in insufferable inner worlds. Both are stories of escape, are ice picks to the heart, are dark as can be. Both feature addiction and characters with image issues and eating disorders. This one, though, is funnier, and, c'mon, even features a paragraph on Mickey Rourke in 9 1/2 Weeks.

This book asks the question of whether we can ever really escape pain. And is anyone ever 'alright'? Probably not, because there's so little we can control. But, confronting life with whatever it brings is the way to live in this world, even if it's jumping off a building. That's where freedom is: being wide, wide awake.
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews48.1k followers
March 21, 2023
Not to sound like I believe myself to the center of the universe, but...I am and I do and this book was probably written for me.

I, like our protagonist, am a 24-year-old blonde with exactly one toxic but adoring friend who daydreams about the idea of sleeping away a week / month / year and waking up refreshed and renewed and in a slightly different, shinier life.

In college, the aforementioned singular friend and I lived through finals and midterms and forty-hour workweeks combined with internships and full-time course-loads by fantasizing about comas. Just a few weeks or so, no brain damage, modern-day Snow Whites escaping capitalism or the patriarchy or what have you.

All of this is to say that the only thing that separates me from this protagonist is the first two decades of the millennium and the wherewithal to get it done.

Life is painful and exhausting and gross. Life is stained Crate & Barrel couches and intolerable people with trust funds who can't tolerate themselves and caffeine addictions upheld by sh*tty coffee. Life needs pills to get you through it and pills to get you out of it.

But life is also the in-betweens: waking up from blackouts (proverbial or literal) to full-body enjoy a slice of pizza standing in front of your fridge. Feeling the sun on your skin at the end of winter. Sitting in a park and watching people be happy. Calling friends.

And life is knowing that the worst part of it all could be just around the corner, on the very last page. But the best part could come a few after.

And maybe the bad parts are actually the in-betweens of the happy ones.

Bottom line: This book is good.

reread update: Want to note that a) I don't think that you're supposed to like this protagonist, god help me, and b) raising this to a 5, because this is not a perfect book but it's close to it for me!

2nd reread

depressive episode reading

reread pre-review

i have almost no new insight.

still review & rating to come

reread update

doing the Bravest thing i can imagine: rereading this less than 3 weeks after i read it for the first time just so i can buddy read with lily (and also hopefully figure out a rating)


how could i possibly be expected to sum up this book with a number between 1 and 5?

review & rating to come

tbr review

secretly i hope every book i pick up will turn out to be the kind of depressing, nasty, female-authored literary fiction populated by unlikable young women and Something to Say about the soullessness of late-stage capitalism that changes my internal monologue for 10-14 days and sears disturbing images into my brain.

i have a good feeling about this one.
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews112k followers
September 11, 2019
This is a very accurate depiction of depression—you feel the main character’s monotony, the lethargy, the pointlessness of it all. As someone who copes with depression by sleeping an excessive amount, I understood where she was coming from, and picked up this book out of curiosity to see what happens when someone submits to that nihilistic desire to not associate with the world anymore. The relationship between the main character and her best friend provided an interesting look at both sides of unhappiness: one that is cynical and apathetic and succumbs to inactivity, and one that is shallow positivity to desperately cope with life. I thought this was a unique way of showing different types of depression and how they are alike and different at the same time.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of missed opportunities for the story to be more insightful and memorable beyond the exaggerated experiment of taking a mental health day. Many reviews complain that the main character is deplorable and annoyingly privileged, but I argue that was on purpose. The fault is more so that there wasn’t much done with this purposeful portrayal. I think showing more vulnerability to her character would have added more insight and humanity, especially since she was clearly grieving over her parents and projecting her self-hatred onto her best friend, but there was little payoff for these subplots. (I suppose the lack of payoff is realistic, but I wonder if that justifies a good 300-page novel.) The middle part drags, which makes the tonal shift and tacked-on conclusion towards the end, in contrast, feel too abrupt and heavy-handed.
Profile Image for Kat.
263 reviews79.5k followers
July 19, 2020
this was....something else.

this will probably always remain one of the oddest books i’ve ever read. on the surface it is mostly ridiculous, the narrator deciding to just take a year in the hopes that it will transform her outlook on life. but underneath all that, it is kind of a tender and vulnerable look at a woman who is struggling to deal with her grief and depression and feels that drastic measures are the only way get through.

my only complaint is that things dragged throughout the middle just a bit, which in itself almost lent to the overall lethargy of the story, but the conclusion of the year was rushed (and wrapped up a little too neatly?) and i would have preferred a bit more time to have been focused there.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,399 reviews11.7k followers
June 11, 2019
Listening to this book was like watching Girls.

Occasionally funny and occasionally insightful in a limited, WASP-y kind of way, but mostly ridiculous, privileged, and, ultimately, pointless.
Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.2k followers
March 14, 2020
I really really enjoyed this one. I feel like Ottessa Moshfegh let herself loose with a bizarre idea and it totally payed off. I'm still not sure if I liked the main character and I love that. Overall very much recommend!
Profile Image for cass.
195 reviews1 follower
December 15, 2021
validated my existence as a lazy whore
Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,051 reviews49k followers
February 25, 2022
it's rare to enjoy both the writing and the concept for a book and then totally hate the execution.

but i don't think that a self obsessed and sort of traumatized WASP giving catty commentary juxtaposed with the idea of sleeping for a year really worked. i certainly wanted it to, but this left me very empty. i think i'm too dumb to really "get" this kind of intellectualism.
Profile Image for mwana .
369 reviews207 followers
June 3, 2022
Mild spoilers ahead. Also, this is a rant review.

This is the stupidest book I've ever hated. It's been a while since a book filled me with unbridled rage. Perhaps I was due since my last loathsome read was almost a year ago with Wonder Boys which I referred to as well-written swill. Unfortunately, My Year of Rest and Relaxation couldn't even be arsed to give me beautiful prose.

The story starts with a spoiled white rich bitch who is somehow unhappy. Because as we all know kids, happiness comes from youth, thinness, graduating from a posh school and an Upper East Side apartment. Read the blurb if you don't believe me. I was intrigued by the idea of a misanthropic depressed woman who decides to sleep her life away. When she showed a disdain for phone calls,
I'd wake up to find voice messages on my cell phone from salons or spas confirming appointments I'd booked in my sleep. I always called back to cancel, which I hated doing because I hated talking to people
I thought I would find part of her relatable. The thought didn't last.

For a few more pages I really thought I could find a thread linking me to this tragic woman who has everything many people would only dream of but she was suffering from ennui. I thought she was in grief. I thought she was actually diagnosed with depression. She seemed to have an air of vulnerability from the world around her.
I steered clear of anything that might pique my intellect or make me envious or anxious. I kept my head down.
But again, this was just a tantalising glimpse at what could have been a harrowing story about turning yourself inside out to escape your own demons. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, this book was about a disgusting selfish woman who slept a year away.

And this book wouldn't hold back on the disgust. In one scene she gets fired from her fake stupid art job and decides to shit in the gallery and stuff the Kleenex she used to wipe her ass in the mouth of a dog taxidermy sculpture. And this book didn't shy away from shit motifs. One would wonder if Otessa was on one of the many hallucinogens mentioned in this book while watching Shrek and thought to herself, that's what I need to make this story raw. Poo!

The story was full of pseudodeep quotes like
Studied grace is not grace
Having a trash chute was one of my favorite things about my building. It made me feel important, like I was participating in the world. My trash mixed with the trash of others. The things I touched touched things other people had touched. I was contributing. I was connecting.
Is this book for real? Yes.

Yes it somehow is. Aside from the narrator's lack of humanity or at least basic human decency, which is only emphasized by how she'd act vaguely nice during her blackouts, the other things I found discomfiting about her is her obsession with Whoopi Goldberg whom she even calls her hero. Whoopi Goldberg was my main hero. I spent a lot of time staring at her on screen and picturing her vagina. Solid, honest, magenta. Whoopi deserves a better class of admirer.

Perhaps the book had a level of self-awareness, but at this point it had to be accidental. When the narrator decides to collaborate with an "artist" to document the final six months of her year of rest and bullshit, she decribes him as
He wasn’t interested in understanding himself or evolving. He just wanted to shock people. And he wanted people to love and despise him for it.
Sigh. Kill me now.

The only faintly likable character is the narrator's "best" friend Reva. The narrator introduces her in satirical fashion that grinds my gears because it shows how much potential this book squandered for the sake of shock value and a rushed ending.
Reva could never soberly admit to any desire that was remotely uncouth. But she wasn’t perfect. “She’s no white lily,” as my mother would have said. I’d known for years that Reva was bulimic. I knew she masturbated with an electric neck massager because she was too embarrassed to buy a proper vibrator from a sex shop. I knew she was deep in debt from college and years of maxed-out credit cards, and that she shoplifted testers from the beauty section of the health food store near her apartment on the Upper West Side.
The narrator's therapist seemed like a potential source of dark humor but I didn't have the energy to laugh. After the narrator reminds the therapist for the umpteenth time that her mother died of an overdose, she says “People like your mother,” Dr. Tuttle replied, shaking her head, “give psychotropic medication a bad reputation.” What has my life come to?

I don't know what I was expecting when I came into this. The first few pages seemed promising but I began to have my optimism wane when I realized how simplistic the writing is, not for accessibility, but for fake deepness. Nobody is likable in this story and that's not necessary but did everyone have to be these drifting apparitions (there was no depth to these characters whatsoever) that tried to be as nasty as possible? Was misanthropy the new black? Why was the narrator so disrespectful to people who hadn't earned it?

The book could have explored themes of depression, extrapolating on the meaning of existence, how to add meaning to life but like Addie LaRue it had to be yet another bland serving of the unbearable lifestyles of the white and boring. At one point there's the advice that Sun exposure promotes cellular collapse. I would argue that this book almost caused my brain to collapse. If you care, sleeping the year away helped the narrator. Towards the end she reveals
Mine was a quest for a new spirit.
And it succeeds I guess because the story ends with her saying
Pain is not the only touchstone for growth, I said to myself. My sleep had worked. I was soft and calm and felt things.
I am not soft. I am not calm. I am rage. Fuck this book and everything it stands for.

For a book about a self-destructive woman who goes through meaningful change, read Luster instead.
Profile Image for CM.
116 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2018
*i received an ARC of this novel through a Goodreads giveaway. which i suppose means final text is still subject to change but i wouldn't get my hopes up.

what a dreadful waste of words. i guess i'm glad the middle of the novel so sedated me in its banality that the utterly cheap 9/11 conclusion was merely offensive rather than absolutely enraging.

moshfegh is clearly a talented writer, and her entertaining wit sneaks through in moments throughout the novel. one only hopes that she will one day free her talents from the shackles of stereotypical MFA melodrama.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Felice Laverne.
Author 1 book3,202 followers
February 12, 2020
I was finally doing something that really mattered. Sleep felt productive. Something was getting sorted out. I knew in my heart—this was, perhaps, the only thing my heart knew back then—that when I’d slept enough, I’d be okay. I’d be renewed, reborn. I would be a whole new person, every one of my cells regenerated enough times that the old cells were just distant, foggy memories. My past life would be but a dream, and I could start over without regrets, bolstered by the bliss and serenity that I would have accumulated in my year of rest and relaxation.

Whew! I had a surprising reaction to this novel. Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation managed to catch me off guard and by surprise. Probably because – funny story – ironically, this book is about a character who does what I always say I’d like to do: have the ability to put my life on pause for just a few days to rest, to think, to recharge. Then press a magic button and the world resumes spinning, without me having lost a single second of my life. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Well, here’s that idea with a twist: Little Miss Nameless Protagonist here does this for an entire year (while strung out on a myriad of different high-level drugs, all while juggling her semi-unwanted friendship with her best friend and her feelings about the death of her parents and the reality of her shitty boyfriend – really, he’s not even that). Set in the year 2000, our narrator decides to hibernate through a year of her life in an attempt to be a new person on the other side of that time. So, with the help of a zany and negligible psychiatrist who’s first and only line of doctoring is to pull out her prescription pad, our narrator dives deeper and deeper into the world of prescription drugs—and the psychological effects of them—in her quest to sleep away a year of her life.

My Ambien, my Rozerem, my Ativan, my Xanax, my trazodone, my lithium. Seroquel, Lunesta. Valium. I laughed. I teared up. Finally, my heart slowed. My hands started trembling a little, or maybe they’d been trembling all along. “Thank God,” I said aloud…I counted out three lithium, two Ativan, five Ambien. That sounded like a nice mélange, a luxurious free fall into velvet blackness. And a couple of trazodone because trazodone weighed down the Ambien, so if I dreamt, I’d dream low to the ground. That would be stabilizing, I thought. And maybe one more Ativan. Ativan to me felt like fresh air. A cool breeze, slightly effervescent. This was good, I thought. A serious rest. My mouth watered. Good strong American sleep.

Jacques Louis David’s neoclassical painting has been used as the cover, a reference to our protagonist’s “culture,” of which she is so proud and self-important, and her Art History background in college and before she quit the workforce. It’s a nice touch, offering layers of other meanings to this book. Within these pages you’ll find a slew of wholly unlikeable characters – well, unlikeable by the arbitrary standards we tend to think of as what makes a “nice” or “good” person. You won’t find those people here. Instead you’ll find the nameless narrator who knows she’s gorgeous and privileged and secretly loves the fact that her (bulimic, needy, whiny, having an intra-office affair with a married guy) best friend, Reva, is jealous of her. You’ll find the WASP mother of the nameless protagonist who can’t be bothered to mother but instead calls in the nanny and drinks herself to death in the end. The artiste who made his claim to fame by ejaculating on a blank canvas in various colors. And we shan’t forget the “boyfriend” who uses our protagonist for quick sexual trysts that work out to only his benefit and then shuns her for weeks or months until he’s ready for another one. She has become semi-dependent on him and this cycle of abuse, even as she hopes that it will one day stop and that he’ll choose her. Their relationship is twisted and not at all the storybook love affair you’re used to:

I called Trevor again. This time when he answered, I didn’t let him say a word. “If you’re not over here fucking me in the next forty-five minutes then you can call an ambulance because I’ll be here bleeding to death and I’m not gonna slit my wrists in the tub like a normal person. If you’re not here in forty-five minutes, I’m gonna slit my throat right here on the sofa. And in the meantime, I’m going to call my lawyer and tell him I’m leaving everything in the apartment to you, especially the sofa. So you can lean on Claudia or whoever when it comes time to deal with all that. She might know a good upholsterer.

I hear Moshfegh is a fan of writing about these sorts of characters – characters who need a chaser or two before they’ll go down our throats smoothly. This was my first foray into her works, and I don’t mind that. In fact, that quality is what drew me deeper into this novel once I opened the first page. Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation doesn’t shy away from the murk and unpleasantness – really, downright offensiveness – inside of us all, that we’re all capable of. In fact, her characters here seem to revel in the way their ickiness makes them better than other people while simultaneously wallowing in it until it nearly drowns them. It’s a bold and scary line for an author to walk, and to see the characters on, but that’s what we love about writers who can pull it off. We all need that shiny mirror of our own spiny imperfections staring back at us from time to time, don’t we? My Year of Rest and Relaxation is dark and obnoxious, but I loved it. Because, isn’t life that way sometimes? I love characters with bite, maybe a pinch of cruelty in them –

But did I care? I didn’t think so. If Reva’s body was hanging by the neck behind the bath curtain, I might have just gone home.

--I appreciate the layers of characters who aren’t bow-tied in shiny pink ribbons of perfection, happy and grinning stupidly with their perfect teeth and empty heads. I like a character who is…shall I say, more like a real person, imperfections and all. Honestly, I felt like this book was WASPy done well – and I don’t think I’ve ever said that before. Even as she stood at the edge of reality, possibly even the precipice of her life, I was able to forget that her feeling of ennui with her privilege annoyed me. I wanted to reach out my hand to her, hoping she’d be okay:

I wondered if I might be dead, and I felt no sorrow, only worry over the afterlife, if it was going to be just like this, just as boring. If I’m dead, I thought, let this be the end. The silliness. At some point I got up to guzzle water from the tap in the kitchen. When I stood upright afterward, I started to go blind. The fluorescent lights were on overhead. The edges of my vision turned black. Like a cloud, the darkness came and rested in front of my eyes. I could move my eyes up and down, but the black cloud stayed fixed. Then it grew, widening. I buckled down to the kitchen floor and splayed out on the cold tile. I was going to sleep now, I hoped. I tried to surrender. But I would not sleep. My body refused. My heart shuddered. My breath caught. Maybe now is the moment, I thought: I could drop dead right now. Or now. Now. But my heart kept up its dull bang bang, thudding against my chest…

But this novel’s ending is what sealed the deal for me, culminating with 9/11 shortly after our protagonist wakes from her year of sleep. The towers come down, someone she knows dies, and maybe – just maybe – that last line of the novel shows that our protagonist has finally found her humanity. I highly recommend this book to readers who like their characters straight with no chaser--to readers who don't shy away from some of the darker hues of humanity. If you're uncomfortable with that notion, definitely stay away! I was glued to this novel from start to finish, and that resonating ending easily solidified the strong 4 stars I’m offering up. ****

I received an advance-read copy of this book from the publisher, Penguin, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


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Profile Image for adora.
56 reviews
June 11, 2022
“I did crave attention, but I refused to humiliate myself by asking for it.”

I too would like to sleep for a year.
Profile Image for AsToldByKenya.
146 reviews1,878 followers
March 24, 2022
This book is horrible. I am not one of those people who says "I just don't get it." I understand exactly what this book is trying to do. This books has no deep message nor is it a stroke of genius from its writer. It is a book about grief and depression, and how it brings out the worst in us, and how we want to escape from the world around us, but life is worth living and blah blah blah. Not only do I not like this book I also don't respect it. I don't respect its writing, its message , its plot or it's ending. This is not a good book. It is sudo intelligent. It makes a mockery fo its own subject matter and is insufferable to read. I know our narrator being insufferable is the point and if that works for you great. But in order for that to work for me I need a purpose and this books only purpose for that is grief and depression, so it feels hollow, flat, thin.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,002 reviews35.9k followers
July 28, 2018
Audiobook...read by Julia Whelan

Questions I had were:
“Are there really psychiatrists this bad?”
and who has friends like Reva?
My biggest question of all:
how would this funny ( ok, ‘tragic’-comic), but still laughable to me - fascinating fantasy- possibly end for our ‘girl-in-hibernation’? I was curious as hell.
I enjoyed the journey to the end too - the dialogue- the absurdity!
I’m thankful I never felt anxious or addicted to binge read this one. My breaks - were powerful. I was often still engaged thinking about the characters and their choices.
I’d love to know what inspired Ottessa to write it.

“How would a REAL - FULL-YEAR-TIME-OUT transform - heal- and empower me?
Limited TV: (Whoopi Goldberg and Harrison Ford
were favorites for our narrator) ...
No social media - no crazy psychiatrist or friends like Reva coming over???
A full year to REST??
I could do without the drugs - thank you - but I’d get massages - and spend time in nature....
It’s a great fantasy- a year off to rest and relax.
I’d like to bring Paul with me though. 🙂

Imagine .....NO MONEY CONCERNS - and a full year off the grid. How would you plan your year?

I stretched-out my reading weeks with Ottessa’s book - unlike when I listened to “Eileen”...
I liked ‘this’ book, too, just as much - they’re very different though. I didn’t feel the urgency to rush - in fact I held back - not because I didn’t enjoy it. I enjoyed it in small doses. Owning it allowed me the luxury to listen while taking as long as I wanted to finish it .....‘resting & relaxing’.
Soaking in the warm pool while listening to this audiobook was decadent and definitely relaxing!!!!

A full 5 stars from me....
I’m clear it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea ... but in a strange way- it comforted me.
Profile Image for Shawn McComb.
46 reviews5,845 followers
January 1, 2023
ur gonna have to wait for the video becausssseee……
Profile Image for Sophia Judice.
57 reviews11.9k followers
September 2, 2021
A solid 3/5. This put me in a terrible slump and took me 3 weeks to finish (for reference, it normally takes me about a day to finish a book this size). I think that the beginning and end have loads of meaningful anecdotes about life and the female experience. It reminded me a lot of The Bell Jar but without the racism. I do have to say that I love reading about totally unlikable and unhinged women, but this book was not that enjoyable of a read for me; however, I believe that is the point. It is a book about a woman sleeping for a year, so naturally, it's going to be slow. My Year of Rest and Relaxation is deliberately boring, which is an interesting artistic choice, but I still don't feel that it was entirely worth the read. I am excited to see the movie, though.
Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,632 followers
August 2, 2020
“Oh, sleep. Nothing else could ever bring me such pleasure, such freedom, the power to feel and move and think and imagine, safe from the miseries of my waking consciousness.”

I love to sleep! There’s nothing much better than a deliciously deep slumber without interruption. It’s also one of the most difficult of leisurely activities to come by. Perhaps that’s why when I lay my head down each night I hope that this will indeed be it – the most perfect sleep of all. I can’t tell you when I last experienced such a thing. If I had to guess, it would have been under anesthesia approximately fourteen years ago, and I suspect that doesn’t really count!

“My hibernation was self-preservational. I thought that it was going to save my life.”

When I first became aware of this novel, my curiosity was piqued but I didn’t really think it would be all that riveting. A woman attempts to take a year off from her life by ingesting a varied and absurd amount of pills in order to sleep the year away and wake up refreshed and renewed. Okay, but that sounds a bit boring. A woman sleeps for a year? What kind of entertainment could a reader possibly find in these pages? Then 2020 happened. What better time than now to languish in a drug-induced state for an entire year of your life? Yes, please! Exactly what remarkable cocktail of pills could do this for me?!

“I’m not a junkie or something. I’m taking some time off. This is my year of rest and relaxation.”

I was completely bowled over by this one! This novel was not a sedative – it was a stimulant, a wake-up call to get up and live your life! It was immensely entertaining – and smart! It seemed somewhat impertinent on my part to burst into laughter at random moments, but I suspect it was the author’s intent for the reader to do just that. Young, beautiful, financially secure, educated and cultured, Moshfegh’s protagonist seems to have everything going for her. But life in her upscale Manhattan apartment is vapid, pretentious and meaningless; or so she has concluded. Enter Dr. Tuttle, one of the most farcical caricatures you’ll come across in literature. She’s the psychiatrist that will prescribe anything and everything under the sun. Here’s a bit of her “wisdom” I can’t resist sharing:

“A lot of psychic diseases get passed around in confined public spaces. I sense your mind is too porous.”

Dr. Tuttle takes the cake here for one of the zaniest, most memorable characters. Speaking of characters, there aren’t loads of them to get to know, for obvious reasons. If you spend most of your time indoors, sleeping, popping pills, and watching movies on VHS cassettes, you’re not going to bump into a whole lot of people. There is a ‘best friend’ of sorts named Reva, who likes to drop in uninvited. She’ll make you think a lot about your own friendships and what kind of meaning they really have. Is it possible that our closest friends envy us, despise us even? Yikes, I don’t even want to think about that. But you’ll get to know what shallow means when you watch these two interact. Mostly everyone else is in the background. We see them through our unnamed narrator’s memories - her ‘on and off’ boyfriend, her now deceased parents. Through these relationships you’ll get a better idea of what makes this woman want to essentially reinvent herself.

I don’t want to spill the beans on any more of this story. I have to admit that I haven’t read something that had me turning the pages so quickly in quite some time. Ottessa Moshfegh is sharp and her voice is invigorating. Seems odd to say this about a plot revolving around sleeping for a year, but it is! It is dark and funny, and you just might want a good pair of muck boots if you tend to get a bit squeamish. Oh, and that ending – just brilliant, really!

“I counted the seconds passing. Time could go on forever like this, I thought again. Time would. Infinity loomed consistently and all at once, forever, with or without me.”
Profile Image for Samantha Martin.
211 reviews44 followers
May 15, 2018
Review from Hello Yellow Room.

Someone standing in line with Otessa Moshfegh at a Starbucks must have said aloud “I’m not sure there’s a novel that sufficiently embraces apathy brought about by woeful depression,” and Otessa said, “Hold my latte.” If that’s not a factual depiction of how this novel was conceived, then my new favorite author Ms. Moshfegh herself can come correct me. I wouldn’t mind.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a unique twist on the classic metamorphosis tale. Written to take place in the year 2000-2001, it’s a novel based heavily in our transition from 1990’s affluence and innocence and relative ease, into the early 2000’s height of terrorism and anxiety. Our narrator, nameless, lifeless, thin, beautiful, rich, orphaned, plans on spending a year in hibernation to sleep away her emotions, wrapped up in a cocoon of colorful pharmaceutical helpers. She finds herself a quack psychiatrist, Dr. Tuttle (hilariously rife with terrible advice), to prescribe her every sleep aid on the market. She takes her apathy in extreme doses, a perfect prescription for a privileged white female in the midst of a foggy depression. Our narrator is as completely disinterested with herself as she is in the rest of the world, which impresses me in a way I can’t put my finger on. I’ve rarely come across a character in literary fiction so uninterested in themselves.

Juxtaposed with our narrator is her best friend from college, the sweet and try-hard Reva. Desperate to fit in, bulimic, chasing trends and having affairs with bosses, Reva is the stereotypical antithesis to our apathetic heroine. She issues Oprah-book-club axioms and sophomoric attempts at psychoanalysis, trying to establish a connection with our narrator, to no avail. In the end, her frantic running around attempting to change herself is just as ineffectual as the narrator’s standing still.

The plot, or lack thereof, rides a strange dream-like quality of repetition and haziness. Our narrator begins to black out and do things without her waking knowledge; she throws parties, goes on shopping binges, duct tapes her phone to odd places, harasses her old boyfriends, etc. Her black outs last for days and leave her totally bemused as to what she’s done. In a particularly active black out, she befriends an artist named Ping Xi who finds her mission fascinating and wants to use her as a muse. Our narrator only wants to sleep. Her observation of the outside world, and everyone dialed into it, is scathing.

I’ll hold off describing our narrator’s estranged relationship with her emotionally distant father and her cold, cruel mother. It becomes a pivotal point driving her addiction to avoidance. She does eventually emerge from her chrysalis of sleep, but the novel’s ending leaves much to be desired. It’s bittersweet—anticlimactic and effective, all at once. Just like this whole novel.

Memorable Quotes:

“Education is directly proportional to anxiety.”

“This was how I knew the sleep was having an effect: I was growing less and less attached to life. If I kept going, I thought, I’d disappear completely, then reappear in some new form. This was my hope. This was my dream.”

“I felt myself float up and away, higher and higher into the ether until my body was just an anecdote, a symbol, a portrait hanging in another world.”

“But these painters of fruit thought only of their own mortality, as though the beauty of their work would somehow soothe their fear of death. There they all were, hanging feckless and candid and meaningless, paintings of things, objects, the paintings themselves just things, objects, withering toward their own inevitable demise.”

Thanks to NetGalley for my pre-pub copy for an unbiased review.
Profile Image for j e w e l s.
309 reviews2,368 followers
August 17, 2019


My repeated claim to love unlikable characters is put to the test in this darkly irreverent, strange fable. I’m sticking to my claim. I do love most of the unlikable people in My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Humor goes a long way when writing unpleasant characters! The author is sophisticated and brilliant when it comes to injecting absurdly wry observations on both the glitter and the grime of New York City.

Contrary to the lovely 18th century painting of a leisurely young woman gracing the cover, this novel is set in 2000 and 2001. Women have had “fainting spells” for centuries now and the remedy is usually a good lie-in. Sleep is restorative. Beautiful and necessary for good health. This is all our never-named protagonist wants in life. Sleep. Our Sleeping Beauty makes a conscious decision to slumber for one year.

“I can’t point to any one event that resulted in my decision to go into hibernation,” the narrator tells us. “I thought life would be more tolerable if my brain were slower to condemn the world around me.”

The combination of apathetic, glitzy beauty and horror is a prevalent theme in My Year of Rest and Relaxation. The best comparative books I’ve come up with are: Less Than Zero, The Vegetarian and a little bit The Bonfire of the Vanities What a combo, huh?

The obvious timeline will lead you to the impending ending, you know we are headed for 9/11 territory. In a lesser writer’s hands, this would be off-putting and cliched. Moshfegh uses it to dazzling irony and, you better believe, I was stunned into a silent reflection that so few contemporary novels are able to achieve.

Just reading about our never-named character craving sleep all the time, seduced my own mind and I could often hear my pillow calling my name while listening to this perfectly narrated audiobook (Julia Whelan-is the goddess of audio acting!). That’s not to imply the book is in any way boring, many parts are unquestionably disturbing. Our girl secures the worst shrink in history and is given pharmaceuticals by the handfuls. She has some of the most sickening, vulgar nightmares which are described in horrifying detail.

She endures the nightmares and blackouts as the preferred alternative to her awakened existence. What is she hiding from? Why why why? You will get the answers in this dreamily paced, viciously witty story. You may not like the answers, but Moshfegh doesn't care. She is the one simply holding the mirror.

Just like the main character, the novel is vacuous, yet complicated. Blank, yet layered. A spectacularly detached anti-drama. I really love it, but it may not be your cup of tea. BREAKING NEWS: The fabulous Margot Robbie has just optioned the film rights—she would be perfectly cast as our never-named, disturbed Sleeping Beauty!����
October 2, 2021

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The reviews of this book are hilarious. Half of them appear to be taking this book at face value, and the other half seem to be trying to come across as if they are op-eds for The New Yorker. MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION is a polarizing book, and whether you'll like it depends on how you feel about reading depressing books with unlikable characters. If you want escapism and "soft" and "gentle" reads and joy, this book is going to go down about as well as, well, a dose of infermiterol.

MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION is set in pre-9/11/2001 New York. The heroine is young, thin, beautiful, privileged, independently wealthy - and clinically depressed. She engages in a number of toxic behaviors, dating a user, befriending another woman who has an eating disorder and with whom she engages a highly co-dependent relationship, and spending all of her free time in bed or on her couch, watching old movies while taking drugs to "hibernate" and escape the uncomfortable intensity of her own emotions.

The narrator is jaded, selfish, and emotionally dulled. The portrayal of depression here is actually quite well done. People who have never experienced depression seem to think that it makes you cry and whine all the time (and, perhaps most unforgivably, willfully self-indulgent and done with agency), but for many people, there's a numbness and a feeling of hopelessness and despair: "What's the point?" you might ask, if nothing brings you joy and contentment, and you don't have the energy to do anything but sleep and eat and exist. When you're depressed, living isn't about enjoying the small things; it's about trying to muster up the energy to do the small things when you barely have the energy to get out of bed. Even though the heroine comes off as privileged, she is unable to enjoy any of the luxuries she has; the only solace she has in life is the escapism that comes from "dreamless" sleep. So what does she do? She engages a quack psychiatrist to feed her pill habit.

The psychiatrist is probably one of the most unlikable characters in the book (although the boyfriend, Trevor, is awful, too - having sex with your drugged-out unconscious ex? Yeah, buddy, that's rape). Dr. Tuttle is a crazy cat lady who has sessions in her nightgown and gives away free pill samples like they're fun-sized candy bars and it's Halloween. Some of the NYT-wannabe set were talking about this book being an existential satire, only I'm not sure what, exactly, MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION is trying to parody. Is Moshfegh trying to go the MODEST PROPOSAL route in the vein of Johnathan Swift, suggesting that if #FirstWorldProblems sufferers want to use intoxication the way the population of Brave New World did with soma to escape from reality, then why not physically escape from reality by drugging yourself out and going into a coma-like hibernation state? The ending kind of suggests that, as if life itself is a dream and death is the awakening.

I found this book amusing and bemusing in equal parts. For most of it, I took the book at face value, as a depiction of depression that transcends class and circumstance. The heroine has a life that many would kill for - minus her dead parents - and has every opportunity in the world at her manicured fingertips, but because of her psychological state, it still isn't enough. That, I appreciated, because it's true that people can be depressed no matter how "happy" their life seems, and while depression is totally worse for people who don't have the resources or the safety net that a caring group of family and friends affords, that doesn't mean that being privileged means that you feel any less helpless.

It becomes harder to take this book at face value with the introduction of the walking malpractice suit that is Dr. Tuttle, the enabling solution she finds with avant-garde artist, Ping Xi, and the pill cocktails she takes on a daily basis that seem as though they should be causing some kind of physical harm or side-effects, especially since she mixes them with caffeine and alcohol. The human body is resilient, but not that resilient. I also disliked the ending, as I'm sure many of the people who rated this book so low did, as it feels like suicidal ideation. Here we have this character who describes their self-damaging behaviors as "saving herself," and when she witnesses death being committed with agency, she describes it as being awake; as if death was the solution to her problems all along.

MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION isn't a bad book, and both the accolades and the criticisms are well-deserved, for various reasons. I fall in the middle here, because while I liked the book and found it interesting enough to continue, I didn't really like the end goal and I'm not sure what exactly the author was trying to accomplish with her message (if anything? maybe it was just a character study or an exercise in trolling the audience, and Ottessa Moshfegh is leaning back against the giant pile of money she got as an advance for this book and laughing at us all).

If you're depressed, you should probably avoid this book, as it will be triggering. It also deals with eating disorders, pharmacological abuse, suicide, addiction, and death. I'd read more from this author, but I wouldn't reread MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION. It's a pretty miserable experience, even if it has some sharply cutting observation on the foibles and hypocrisies of humankind.

3 stars
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,774 reviews1,254 followers
July 12, 2022
I was “on drugs.” I took upwards of a dozen pills a day. But it was all very regulated, I thought. It was all totally above board. I just wanted to sleep all the time. I had a plan. “I’m not a junkie or something,” I said defensively. “I’m taking some time off. This is my year of rest and relaxation.”

This novel is by Ottessa Mosfegh – author of Eileen, my views of which were neatly captured by the Sunday Times recent review of this book: Billed as a thriller, Eileen was more of a mystery, a mystery as to how it ever got published, let alone garnered comparisons to Nabakov and wound up on the Man Booker shortlist.

Eileen was one of a number of books (for example Sorry to Disrupt the Peace) that spearheaded the “unlikeable female” narrator genre –relying on confrontational, unfiltered behaviour and calculated “grossness” (the first of which I can appreciate, the second of which always reminds me of nothing more than my experience in youth groups with young-ish children who think they can shock leaders by using swear words and sexual terms they have just learnt).

My view of Mosfegh’s books was not assisted by a number of (again deliberately but childishly) provocative interviews she gave leading up to the award – in particular making it clear that she was nothing like her “loser” protagonist with a much more successful and fulfilled life.

For balance though I have to say that by the time of the shortlist readings and book signings the author came across as intelligent and thoughtful.

The unnamed narrator of this book lives in some privilege in her fully owned apartment in New York; although privilege earned by the successive deaths – from cancer and pill/alcohol suicide – of her parents; parents who were distant from each other and from her even during her childhood.

She has an on-off, relationship with Trevor (a sado-masochist and commitment-phobe), works on the fringes of the New York art scene – in a conceptual art gallery – in late 2000/early 2001 but rejects much if not all of the lives she sees around her and takes refuge in drugs, alcohol and cynicism.

Her only real "friend" is Reva.

Reva’s (largely thwarted) aspirations are everything that the narrator is trying to escape: she is devastated by the cancer her mother is suffering; she is slowly climbing the corporate ladder, as an assistant at the insurance broker Marsh; searching for love – having an affair with her clearly manipulative married boss; obsessed with exercise classes, designer clothes she cannot afford and weight loss to the point of bulimia and declaiming (so often it becomes her signature phase) “no fair” at the narrator’s own natural slimness and beauty and inherited style (which the narrator reminds us about constantly).

Reva’s weight obsession adds some humour to the book: getting pregnant by her lover (who immediately engineers her a promotion to her firm’s office in the World Trade Centre) she remarks “The doctor said the abortion won’t cause any dramatic weight loss, but I’ll take it” and after her mother’s death, wasted away by cancer: “She probably weighed half of what I weigh now. Well, maybe not half exactly. But she was super skinny. Skinnier than Kate Moss, even.”

Reva seems to take her beliefs and ideas from the trite and cliched world of Hallmark cards, lifestyle magazines and corporate mission statements – the narrator observations on Reva are (as one might expect from this genre) caustic and cruelly humourous:

I took a Polaroid of her one night and stuck it into the frame of the mirror in the living room. Reva thought it was a loving gesture, but the photo was really meant as a reminder of how little I enjoyed her company if I felt like calling her later while I was under the influence.

After a minute or two of silence, she looked up at me and put a finger under her nose—something she did when she was about to start crying. It was like an Adolf Hitler impression. I pulled my sweater over my head and grit my teeth and tried not to laugh while she sputtered and whined and tried to compose herself.

But, more deeply, Reva’s life and attitudes somehow act as a remedy for the narrator’s malaise:

Reva scratched at an itch that, on my own, I couldn’t reach. Watching her take what was deep and real and painful and ruin it by expressing it with such trite precision gave me reason to think Reva was an idiot, and therefore I could discount her pain, and with it, mine. Reva was like the pills I took. They turned everything, even hatred, even love, into fluff I could bat away.

A remedy but not a panacea – and the narrator turns instead to sleep - the only shared activity she had with her mother.

oh, sleep. nothing else could ever bring me such pleasure, such freedom, the power to feel and move and think and imagine, safe from the miseries of my waking consciousness. I was not a narcoleptic—I never fell asleep when I didn’t want to. I was more of a somniac. A somnophile. I’d always loved sleeping. It was one thing my mother and I had enjoyed doing together when I was a child. She was not the type to sit and watch me draw or read me books or play games or go for walks in the park or bake brownies. We got along best when we were asleep.

She locates a comically bad psychiatrist to assist her:

Try to sleep on your side when possible. There was recently a study in Australia that said that when you sleep on your back, you’re more likely to have nightmares about drowning. It’s not conclusive, of course, since they’re on the opposite side of the Earth. So actually, you might want to try sleeping on your stomach instead, and see what that does.

Whose sole skills (but ones that are invaluable for the narrator’s purposes) are the ability to track down the latest drugs from internet articles and (more importantly) a fine judgement of how many, and at what frequency and quantity, she can prescribe without causing issues with health insurers.

The narrator’s somnophilia causes her to lose her job (which she reacts to in a thankfully relatively rare outbreak of Eileen-style grossness by defecating on the floor of the gallery and stuffing the soiled tissues into the mouth of a stuffed dog forming part of an exhibition) and to take up systematically sleeping as a one-year sabbatical:

I was finally doing something that really mattered. Sleep felt productive. Something was getting sorted out. I knew in my heart—this was, perhaps, the only thing my heart knew back then—that when I’d slept enough, I’d be okay. I’d be renewed, reborn. I would be a whole new person, every one of my cells regenerated enough times that the old cells were just distant, foggy memories. My past life would be but a dream, and I could start over without regrets, bolstered by the bliss and serenity that I would have accumulated in my year of rest and relaxation.

To her initial disquiet, she discovers a drug which rather than making her sleep seems to induce in her an extreme form of somnambulism – rendering her unaware of her actions for three days at a time

an unfortunate shift occurred. The carefree tranquility of sleep gave way to a startling subliminal rebellion—I began to do things while I was unconscious.

But over time decides to embrace this as the culmination of her sleep experiment – and she strikes a deal with a conceptual artist from the gallery, who has access to paint her during the episodes in exchange for keeping her supplied for her intervals of lucidity.

And unfortunately it is around this point that the book veers from, while not being exceptional, to at least being surprisingly (given its predecessor) promising into sheer tedium.

Or at least this was my view – other readers may enjoy pages of lists of drugs and television programmes – so I include a very small sample:

In the elevator back up to my apartment, I thought up combinations of pills that I hoped would put me out—Ambien plus Placidyl plus Theraflu. Solfoton plus Ambien plus Dimetapp. I wanted a cocktail that would arrest my imagination and put me into a deep, boring, inert sleep. I needed to 19 1 dispose of those photographs. Nembutal plus Ativan plus Benadryl. ........... I watched Driving Miss Daisy and Sling Blade. I took a Nembutal and drank half a bottle of Robitussin. I watched The World According to Garp and Stargate and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Moonstruck and Flashdance, then Dirty Dancing and Ghost, then Pretty Woman.

The book then culminates in an ending which was obviously foreshadowed throughout the book (and this review) – and really does very little with this idea other than with the closing words about a “jumper” “There she is, a human being, diving into the unknown, and she is wide awake.”

This book is I think meant to be around the sleepiness and then awakening of the New York art scene, up to and including 2001 – but did not really succeed for me at all. Some of the book is clearly a parody of conceptual art, but that is an art-form which is by its very nature self-parodying and does not need literary assistance.

Another of the controversies around Eileen was the author’s admittance (https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...
) that she wrote it using a guide to best seller fiction: The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the story within.

Good literature in my view needs ability, not how-to-write books, and tellingly this novel provides its own conclusion:

I wanted to be an artist, but I had no talent,” I told her. “Do you really need talent?” That might have been the smartest thing Reva ever said to me. “Yes,” I replied.

My thanks to Random House for an ARC via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Jean-Luke.
Author 1 book385 followers
September 13, 2021
In the middle of my copy of My Year of Rest and Relaxation I found a receipt for a bar tab totaling $213.00. Understandable. But had the receipt been dated 6/26/20 instead of 6/26/19, I would have said it makes perfect sense. Although it wouldn’t have been a bar tab (the bars were closed, remember—let’s do our best to forget the horror of it) but rather a receipt from the corner liquor store. Had we but known—My Year of Rest and Relaxation might have become a sort of how-to guide to getting through the year 2020.

Imagine Holden Caulfield pulling an Orlando and changing from male to female, and the resulting character might just be the main character in this book. The literary version of Charlize Theron in the movie Young Adult, or Harper in Angels in America, with some flashes of The Devil Wears Prada and Bridget Jones’s Diary and RHONY.

As with Eugenides and the 1970s in The Virgin Suicides there is not a moment of doubt that this book is set firmly in the year 2000. I was 5 years old at the time so don’t laugh when I say it left me feeling nostalgic—I think all my childhood VHS tapes are still somewhere in my parents’ garage. This feels somehow wrong to write, but 9/11 made a very subtle and effective plot device.
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
778 reviews
July 3, 2022
One of the things I enjoy about reading fiction is getting to see the challenges authors set themselves when they create their plots and characters. Otessa Moshfegh rewarded me well on that score. She has written this book using a limited number of characters; she makes it all happen more or less in one location; and she has reduced plot twists to almost zero. But the most impressive aspect of her challenge is the timeframe she uses. In comparison to the scarcity of the rest of the elements, the length of time this story takes to play out seems out of proportion: a year is a long time for a narrator who rarely goes out and has almost no friends to spend narrating her life, especially since she tells the story as if it were a diary so that we get to hear about every tiny item of food and every huge dose of medication she takes, plus every movie she watches and rewatches. Oh, and she logs her dreams too.

So how does Moshfegh keep her readers reading this repetitive narrative? The answer seems to lie with the voice of the narrator. She comes across as self-aware, realistic, funny and brave. We go along with the crazy pill-popping regime because we guess that such a make or break solution is the only way she can deal with the existential crisis she's experiencing. And we know she'll survive because she's telling us her story.

There are a couple of other interesting but tricky elements in the challenge the author has set herself. One is Dr Tuttle, the unfit-to-practice but very amusing psychiatrist who prescribes the tons of medication the narrator takes during her year of retirement from life. The mixtures and quantities Dr Tuttle prescribes should have killed her patient but instead they enable the narrator to cure herself. Some readers might consider Dr Tuttle and her methods too unlikely but I found the visits to her cat-filled treatment room essential — they helped keep me reading.

The other element in this story that might have worked against its success is the fact that the narrator is young, beautiful and privileged, and therefore unlikely to gain the reader's sympathy. I think this was the most interesting aspect of the whole scenario. Moshfegh succeeded in reminding me that people are more than their outward envelope, and that no one, no matter their chances in life or their position of privilege, is immune from distress and suffering.

Did I say there are no plot twists?
There is a spectacular one on the final page.
Profile Image for Beverly.
805 reviews291 followers
January 27, 2019
Sleep as a tonic for grief

A mesmerizing peek into the self-medication of a young woman who wants to sleep for a year and wake up rejuvenated and ready to live. She only has one friend and has been let go from her job. At times the conversations she has with her best friend, Reva, are absurd and others sad, she has just lost her parents and an older, very selfish lover, so she wants to do a rewind, like on her beloved VCR, this takes places in 2000 until 2001.
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