My year of rest and relaxation

by Ottessa Moshfegh

Hardcover, 2018




New York : Penguin Press, 2018.


"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"--… (more)

Media reviews

"A beautiful 24-year-old gallery assistant wants nothing more than to sleep — not for a rejuvenating eight hours, but 'full-time,' like a hibernating bear or an aspiring narcoleptic. Her goal is to sleep, not perchance to dream, but to 'drown out my thoughts and judgments, since the constant
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barrage made it hard not to hate everyone and everything.'"
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User reviews

LibraryThing member ASKelmore
Best for:
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
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life is by sleeping. So she find a doctor who is willing to prescribe her all manner of sleeping pills.

Worth quoting:
‘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:
Toss it
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
In the beginning I liked this book a whole lot, despite its deeply unlikeable characters, and then I progressively lost interest and ended feeling, as I often do when I end up not relating to a book at all, that I am decidedly not the right audience for this one for all kinds of reasons which I may
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or may not opt to delve into further later, but essentially to do with the fact that deeply narcissistic characters rarely do much for me, with the occasional exception.

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?!
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LibraryThing member kayanelson
This wasn't the book for me. What happened in this book. She took pills and more pills and zoned out for a year. And then after that year not much happened either. Waste of my time.
LibraryThing member ouroborosangel
Weirdly enough, even though I quit this book half-way through, I am planning on seeking out other books by Ottessa Moshfegh because I actually quite enjoyed the writing style. If this book was about anything other than a depressed, beautiful, entitled, pill-popping young woman who cannot deal with
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life and allows herself to be abused emotionally and sexually by the worst man ever, I feel like I could really have loved it. Isn't anyone else tired of reading about bored, addicted women? I'm off to find a book with a kick-ass heroine. Anyone have suggestions?
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LibraryThing member sophroniaborgia
Once again Ottessa Moshfegh has created a protagonist who is narcissistic, self-destructive, and often extremely unlikeable, and yet somehow relatable despite it all. Our unnamed narrator knows she's got major problems -- she's lost both of her parents, who never cared much for her anyway; she's
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throwing herself into a debasing. exploitative sexual relationship; her only friend is a jealous college roommate she hasn't yet managed to offend enough to drive her away; and she's disgusted by the culture of turn-of-the-millennium New York City. So she comes up with a lunatic plan to sleep through an entire year of her life with the assistance of a truly staggering amount of pharmaceuticals supplied by the world's most irresponsible doctor, hoping to emerge having somehow changed into a new person.

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!
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LibraryThing member akblanchard
The unnamed female narrator of this strange, compulsively readable novel wants nothing more than to shut the world out through sleep. Her crackpot psychiatrist keepers her supplied with every narcoleptic drug known to humankind, including a (fictitious) one called Infermiterol, which causes her to
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do things she does not remember doing. But a person cannot sleep forever, can she?

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.
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LibraryThing member DKnight0918
I suffered through it.
LibraryThing member nancyjean19
What an interesting journey in the narrator's brain... Funny, sad, touching, frustrating. There were a few parts I thought were a bit too cartoonish or contrived, but I ended the book feeling a lot of compassion for a challenging person.
LibraryThing member jonerthon
My only fiction title of Q2, but man did I pick an intense one. The unnamed protagonist is an attractive early 20s woman in NYC, with a Columbia degree and enough inherited money for an Upper East Side condo and anything else she desires. Yet the plot slowly reveals how unhappy and almost alone she
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is in the world, a product of aloof parents and a college boyfriend who mostly treated her as a side piece. She copes with a plan to go all-in on medicating herself, via a crooked psychiatrist, with plans to be unconscious or at least unaware for days at a time. In the process she actively excludes her single true friend from what could be a more therapeutic recovery. Heartbreaking, especially if you've known substance abuse in your or someone else's lives, but very very sharp and poignant.
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LibraryThing member brangwinn
As I continued to read this story, I just like the protagonist, wanted to take drugs to escape. Spending a year sleeping isn’t my idea of a good time. I couldn’t believe how the psychiatrist was so happy to add to the collection of pills. I give this book higher marks than you might expect
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because, this really was creative writing, being able to document a wasted year of a person’s life. It is the kind of book I am compelled to finish reading just to find out what happened to the main character.
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LibraryThing member ecataldi
This book was.... odd? But in a totally readable way. My Year of Rest and Relaxation is exactly what the title promises, a woman in her late twenties decides to medicate herself into hibernation for a year. Her parents are dead, she only has one "friend," she's quit her job, and she just can't
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stomach going about the drudgery of the every day. She's happiest while sleeping and she's willing to take an insane cocktail of prescribed drugs to chase that feeling of rest and relaxation. Skinny, pretty, and privileged; she knows she has it easy, but she wants a new life and she wants to sleep her way into the next chapter. At first I wondered how on earth an entire book could be written about drug induced quest for sleep; but rest assured, I couldn't put this book down. Literally. I started it at 8 this morning and am already done. Moshfegh is a writer to watch, I loved this even more than I loved her collection of short stories I read last year.
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LibraryThing member sturlington
This was like a fictional recounting of a fantasy I have that I know can never be realized: to go to sleep for a long period and then wake up as a blank slate, to start over again from scratch. The unnamed narrator of this book is intensely unlikeable, but yet she is so relatable, at least for
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someone like me, who knows from depression. I thought this was much better than Eileen, Moshfegh's other novel that I have read, which also featured an unlikeable female lead. And I think it's very honest, which can make for hard reading. This is not a book for everyone, but I think if it does connect with you, it will connect with you hard.
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LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
Ottessa Moshfegh's book was very hyped. I also have her previous novel which I will read next because I have it and it is not that long. However, I would not have gotten it after reading this book. Yes, Moshfegh is an excellent writer and very creative. Her characters were unique and her premise
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for the novel was potentially interesting. A 26 year old pretty art major graduate(works in a gallery)from Columbia who owns her apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan and also has enough money due to an inheritance from her deceased parents decides to take a year off. How so? By finding a willing psychiatrist that provides her with unlimited amounts of sleeping pills. The psychiatrist was a very funny character as was her only friend Reva. The young woman was the narrator who was nameless(everyone seems to have nameless first person narrators) wants to escape a world she doesn't feel comfortable in although to the outside observer she has everything. The book does a decent job getting into her past with having distant parents and especially an alcoholic classic bad mom. She sets up this premise but then the book really doesn't move because it just continues showing her doing drugs(of course the amount she took should have killed her). She really isn't a likable character which is okay but the story didn't hold me. However, on the positive side her creativity and prose were great. I will read "Eileen" which was up for the Booker Prize in 2015. Hopefully, I will enjoy that more. It is interesting to see how much the critics like this book but I did read Amazon 3 star reviews from people who had loved her previous books but were disappointed in this book. My review on "Eileen" will be up here soon.
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LibraryThing member over.the.edge
My Year of Rest and Relaxation
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
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psychiatrist, Dr. Tuttle, she spends her time worked at the Ducet Fine Art Gallery in Soho (the art described here really stretches the imagination), sleeping, and watching her VHS tapes she buys almost daily at a local thrift shop. Soon she is trying to navigate through her life in a dream like state.
" 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!
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LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
Ottessa Moshfegh's characters are unpleasant people. They're morally flexible, utterly self-involved, make terrible decisions and often live in environments that reflect their personalities. Allowing a Moshfegh character into your life will invariably end in disappointment and legal difficulties.
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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.
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LibraryThing member BALE
This book started out w/ a lot of potential then lost its heartbeat and didn't recover.
LibraryThing member chrisblocker
No doubt this book is a tough sell. Well what's it about? It's about a young woman, living in NYC in 2000, and she's depressed, so she takes a lot of drugs and sleeps a lot. Then what happens? She takes more drugs and sleeps even more. Then? Well, she takes more drugs, but has trouble sleeping.
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Okay, let's jump past all the drugs and sleeping, what happens after all that? She wakes up, I guess. That's it? Well, there's also this whole obsession with Whoopi Goldberg. That's pretty interesting.

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.
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LibraryThing member PDCRead
During her final year at Columbia University, where she majored in art history, our unnamed protagonist lost both her parents. The inheritance that they left her means that she is financially stable, but she is utterly emotionally exhausted. She is in an apartment on the Upper East Side of
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Manhattan and struggles to hold a job down for any length of time. She is not treated particularly nicely by her boyfriend and has a best friend who she has a difficult relationship with. To try and fill the enormous hole in her life she turns to a psychiatrist, Dr Tuttle to help. This doctor is hoping to help her with her insomnia and is more than happy to keep prescribing all manner of stronger and stronger sleeping and anti-anxiety medications. Having been fired from her latest job in a gallery she decides to ramp up the drugs and see if she can spend the next year mostly sleeping in her apartment.

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.
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LibraryThing member ShannonRose4
We never learn her name but her privileged background can't keep her from experiencing remarkable loss. Her grief & depression (words she never uses) has sparked a very fitting and unique "project" that is seems like it would be a dream, but is it?
Moshfegh's telling is heartbreaking, maddening and
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laugh out loud funny; this beautifully odd novel is one you'll fall for and will keep you up late reading.
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LibraryThing member alexrichman
Hilariously depressing or depressingly hilarious depending on your disposition. Bit conflicted about the millenium setting but there’s a lot to love about this book. Could be a Catcher in the Rye for the nihilist Twitter generation.
LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Even when you are young and blonde and beautiful, financially comfortable, unencumbered by familial attachments or the complications friends carry, you can still feel a bit heavy. Life is like that, or gravity. One of them gets you down if the other doesn’t. Sometimes you just want to sleep it
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all away. But getting there, getting to the point of real sleep, and staying there, that takes serious effort and planning and non-FDA-approved psycho-medications.

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.

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LibraryThing member bostonbibliophile
I loved this book. I didn't *like*the protagonist but I understood her and could see from her point of view. The superficial trappings- her looks, money, possessions- were just superficial. The author invested her with the wealth needed to retreat from the world the way she wanted to, but I think
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it's the way many of us would like to. But her feelings were real and raw and honest. The funny thing is she doesn't really get her year of rest. But something happens anyway.
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LibraryThing member jnmegan
There are those who think a catnap in the afternoon is an extravagant indulgence, and then there is Otessa Moshfegh’s narrator in her newest novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation. In this book, the first-person account is voiced by an unnamed woman who decides that she will spend a whole year
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sleeping as much as possible. Young, orphaned, wealthy and spoiled, she states that her plan to hibernate is meant to “drown out any thoughts and judgements, since the constant barrage makes it hard not to hate everyone and everything.” Mosfegh’s character believes that her endeavor will result in a metamorphosis, an epiphany that will ultimately illuminate her higher purpose. She enlists the help of a psychiatrist (whose medical ethics are on the far side of malpractice) to prescribe her as many medications as possible to induce a state of nearly constant unconsciousness. As she experiments with an implausible quantity of drugs, she often wakes to discover that she has spent the time wandering in a fugue state. Her bouts of sleep are only interrupted by her trips for food, prescription refills, looping VCR tapes and unwelcome intrusions by her only friend, Reva. Reva is a friend from her college days-insecure, but loyal and loving-and therefore pitiful and worthy of the narrator’s disdain. The book focuses more on character development and themes of millennial ennui, entitlement and mindless consumerism than on driving action. Moshfegh has proven again that she is a remarkable writer with a talent for delicately portraying characters with few redeemable qualities. As the novel progresses, however, the reader might find compassion for this damaged woman despite her self-centeredness and arrogance. Truly unique and finely crafted, My Year of Rest and Relaxation is as difficult to categorize as it is to put down.
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LibraryThing member jphamilton
"Holy shit!" These were the words that were on my lips as I finished the last line of this very dark, clever, and fantastic novel. Though the last line referenced an over-used metaphor, the line was perfection.
The book is centered on a good-looking, privileged young woman living her NYC life on a
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wealthy inheritance. She's normally the most attractive woman in any room, has a stunning wardrobe, lives in a great apartment, yet she decides that her life would be so much better, she would be a better person, if only she slept more. She embarks on a life of narcotic hibernation. A willing doctor with no qualms about prescribing enough heavy-duty drugs to knock out a grizzly bear, makes her hibernation possible. The book is littered with the drug brand names that knock her out for many hours each day.
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.
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LibraryThing member alanteder
Portrait of a Young Drug-Induced Somnambulist

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
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Vampires". Nope, every time it was still a straight reproduction of "Portrait of a Young Woman in White" (c1798) by the School of Jacques-Louis David.

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.
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