"From one of our boldest, most celebrated new literary voices, a shocking and tender novel about a young woman's efforts to sustain a state of deep hibernation over the course of a year on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Our narrator should be happy, shouldn't she? She's young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance. But there is a dark and vacuous hole in her heart, and it isn't just the loss of her parents, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend, Reva. It's the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong? My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a powerful answer to that question. Through the story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs designed to heal our heroine from her alienation from this world, Moshfegh shows us how reasonable, even necessary, alienation can be. Both tender and blackly funny, merciless and compassionate, it is a showcase for the gifts of one of our major writers working at the height of her powers"--
People looking for a well-written, fairly quick read of no consequence, whose characters are all unappealing, especially the protagonist.
In a nutshell:
Orphaned rich woman (no name given, which I didn’t realize until I went to write this review) decides the way she wants to deal with her
‘It’s not about the men,’ she said. ‘Women are so judgmental. They’re always comparing.’
‘But why do you care? It’s not a contest.’
‘Yes, it is. You just can’t see it because you’ve always been the winner.’
Why I chose it:
I have picked this book up in shops probably a half-dozen times. Now that it’s in paperback I finally decided to get it. I’m glad, if only because my curiosity is well-sated.
This was a quick read, for sure. But I did not enjoy it. When I finished it, I wondered what I’d missed. Was this satire - a mocking of all those sort-of coming-of-age books written by white men about young white men? No? It’s just a character study? Huh.
Author Moshfegh is talented, for sure. The book is easy to read, the scenes evocative and well-thought-out. I have a strong picture in my mind of every place described, and a real feeling about each place. But the overall idea of the book, the main concept, the plot, just didn’t work for me at all. As it moved along I sort of got a bit of why the protagonist was doing what she was doing. I think?
Was she depressed? Probably. But was that what was fueling her desire to sleep? Or was she just ill-equipped for the world? Honestly? I didn’t care. Was I supposed to care? Unclear. Like I said, I might have missed something, but maybe not. Maybe it just wasn’t my thing. Entertainment Weekly said “One of the most compelling protagonists modern fiction has offered in years” and just … no. I disagree.
Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
More later about a twenty something woman who chooses pill popping and permanent sleep for a year as a life fixer, seen through the eyes of a forty something reader, who happens to be a woman who has been on permanent leave from work and still struggles with after effects of a spectacular burnout from a thriving career after twelve years, partially due to overworking on a grand manic scale and mental illness, and who long resisted taking her meds because never much liked the idea of popping pills to begin with and always had a deeply disliked self obsessed overprivileged bitches only concerned with their own looks and sex.
Plenty of good bits in there and I did at first take it as a case study in a radically different approach to finding mental health and kept telling myself that I was enjoying this book from that perspective, and that worked up to a point, but it was awfully repetitive what with the constant and rather random pill popping and the endless cruel putting down of the alcoholic, bullimic fawning Jewish friend and the endless references to her own tall blonde WASPish model good looks. I guess it’s all supposed to be a good joke, the narcissism and all, but Gag Me With a Spoon, won’t you?! I hear Moshfegh’s short stories are awfully good though. Looking forward to those.
Maybe that just about sums it up after all. I’ll decide when I’ve simmered down and read myself again whether this constitutes my official review, but it probably does. Because I’ll be damned when the day comes I have to convince myself ever again I like something just because it’s the popular thing right now, eh?!
The appeal of her plan is obvious -- who hasn't longed to just take a few days off to rest when the world becomes overwhelming? And who hasn't wanted to be able to improve their life and become a totally new person without having to actually be conscious for any of the work or consequences involved? It's Moshfegh's genius that her novel recognizes the universal nature of these desires but also indicts the basic selfishness behind them. Of course we want to skip over the easy parts of being adults in the world, but it's just evidence of how craven and disgusting we all really are, just like the protagonist.
I was a bit conflicted about the ending of the book -- I thought it didn't quite work as Moshfegh intended -- but her writing is beautifully readable, even when describing emotions and experiences that most people would turn away from. Definitely an ambitious and mostly successful work!
This fascinating book satirizes the art world, and explores with dark humor what is often left unsaid in familial and other relationships. Recommended for readers who don't need to like the characters to find a book worthwhile.
By Ottessa Moshfegh
When a beautiful, Columbia graduated women living in Yorkville, Upper East Side NY, decides to take a year off to deal with her depression, living on her inheritance, it changes her life. But not her depression. Over medicated by her
" I felt myself float up and away, higher and higher into the ether until my body was just an anecdote, a symbol, a potrait hanging in another world."
" 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."
One of my fave authors....this was a great character read, and was actually pretty humorous at times. Recommended!
In My Year of Rest and Relaxation, the protagonist is a well-off, pretty young blonde woman with a nice apartment in Manhattan. She finds an utterly incompetent psychiatrist willing to write her an ever increasing number of prescriptions for various sedative, anti-depressants and sleeping aids and sets out to enjoy a year of unconsciousness. It doesn't quite go the way she'd envisioned. Her only friend keeps showing up and she keeps needing new pharmaceuticals to stay asleep.
The character in this novel begin as shallow, unpleasant person and while she remains true to herself, Moshfegh forces her to develop and grow despite her intense desire to avoid everything. This is one of the best novels I've read this year.
So my love of Whoopi began with Star Trek: The Next Generation. For those who do not know, she played Guinan, the ship's bartender. Despite her secondary role, Guinan was my favorite character from that series. So already I was impressed with My Year of Rest and Relaxation for the unnamed narrator's fascination with Goldberg. But when I found out her obsession began with Guinan—oh, Ottessa, you have captured my heart. I digress...
And I still haven't sold you on this book, have I?
Okay, Moshfegh has a way of making a simple story semi-interesting. No, My Year... is certainly not riveting, but the beauty of the language and the inner workings of the narrator's mind are engaging. Perhaps this novel reached a point about two-thirds of the way through when it began to feel like the idea had run its course, but that final third wasn't a drag by any means. Part of why this book succeeds is, I think, because Moshfegh is in no way heavy-handed with the connections she makes to an apathetic people, a dying art scene, and a wake-up call. The few characters who revolve around our narrator's world are unlikable and played for humor, which worked, but didn't allow me to grow close to any of them. This leaves only the narrator who is over-privileged and despicable in her own ways, but at least she understands a love of Guinan. (Sometimes all you need is Whoopi.)
It's not easy to convince anyone to read a book about a woman who sleeps. And that's okay, because many readers probably won't love My Year of Rest and Relaxation. At times, it's slow, dry, and depressing. I think with all things Moshfegh writes, it either subtly grows on you, or it doesn't.
Moshfegh has made this compelling read from what seems on the face of it a hollow premise of someone spending a year in a drug-filled sleep. Even though the two characters are not particularly likeable, I did feel that I had to admire the tenacity of the main character as she pursues the desire to alienate herself from the world rather than face the reality of her parent’s deaths and the swirl of modern life. Her friend, Reva, is as infuriating as she is funny, and she injects a necessary spark of humour into the plot. I liked this and I can’t really say why, but I think it is the writing that lifts this to a black comedic tragedy.
Moshfegh's telling is heartbreaking, maddening and
The unnamed protagonist of Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel has had some disappointments. Both of her parents died while she was an undergraduate studying art history. Her only friend, Reva, is intensely needy and unobservant. Her sometime boyfriend, Trevor, is emotionally distant and sexually unimaginative. Her waspishness practically guaranteed her a front of house position at a trendy Chelsea gallery. But it also ensured that she would lose said job in a fit of pique. The only thing that brings her any pleasure, if that’s the correct word, is empty chunks of unconsciousness, i.e. sleep. When she turns to Dr Tuttle, a somewhat unorthodox psychiatrist, she is prepared to tell her almost anything in order to obtain prescriptions for numerous and various medications to assist her goal of uninterrupted repose.
The writing here is both inventive and subtle, even though the events described are rarely either. There is a certain inexorableness to this. Perhaps any novel set in New York in the year 2000 will have that feel, as though it is leading up to something, or falling, falling endlessly. It’s an achievement to hold the readers attention throughout, despite the protagonist’s recurrent and lengthy bouts of forgetful sleep. I was impressed.
The book is centered on a good-looking, privileged young woman living her NYC life on a
Her parents are dead, her "best friend" has no real attachment to her, an experimental artist she knows only see her as a project. Trevor, her Wall Street "boyfriend" is another very odd relationship in her life, and it eventually collapses under it own lovelessness. Other than these characters, there are only the non-relationships she has with her building's doorman, and the corner store clerks. The book starts with her working a job she certainly doesn't need or have much of a connection with, and it disappears. Numerous flashbacks show her upbringing in a family household of severely-stunted feelings, the family member mostly just cohabitate.
The word bleak entered my mind repeatedly as I read this dark story. Yet, through all the drugs, the lack of any real attachments -- other than to her pills -- the book takes you deep into our main character's most unusual head.
The last part of her hibernation is even more intense. She gives away practically all her furniture, clothes, and other belongings, has the locks changed so she cannot leave her apartment, arranges for the artist to bring her minimal food and such, and then embarks on three months of a bizarre "rehab." She uses only forty of the strongest pills -- the ones that knock her out for three days each -- and starts her program. The schedule: take a pill, followed by three days of unconsciousness (during which the gay artist comes with some supplies and can film or record her in any way he wants for his art project), followed by her coming to and a short period to eat cold pizza, shower, and then it's time for another pill, and the next three days down.
Does she rehabilitate herself?
What is the final art project?
Is she a happier, a better person?
Those answers are all in the last pages of this intensely different and rewarding novel.
It's a clever, dark, trying, painful at times, very original, and well-written novel.
I had to keep checking the cover art of "My Year of Rest and Relaxation" to be reassured that it didn't have some sort of macabre twist to it like the covers of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", "Dawn of the Dreadfuls" or "Pride and Prejudice and
Such was the unsettled feeling left by Moshfegh's new novel which steps away from the noirish crime fiction of her earlier novel "Eileen' but still has disturbing elements that it shares with the short stories of "Homesick for Another World" swings between parody humour of the modern art world and an existential crisis of the narrator who has convinced herself that a year of hibernation will be the cure of her modern world ennui. She seeks that solution with the aid of a tame pill-prescribing psychiatrist and a fictional drug named Infermiterol (which puts this somewhat into a noirish science-fiction realm).
It was compulsive reading and entertaining as Moshfegh always is, but slightly wore out its welcome over novel length. There was also an element of predictability to it about which it would be a spoiler to say much more except that setting books at certain times and places in history will inevitably cause the reader to guess the conclusion which will result from that choice.