By Amy Jackson

In the first of our Good Book Club series, we review Ottessa Moshfegh’s acclaimed and daring novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

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.

ottessa moshfegh, my year of rest and relaxation

Set in New York in 2000 – 2001, Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel follows the inner thoughts of a twenty-something Columbia graduate who dreams of spending a year of her life confined to her Manhattan apartment, dosed up on a cocktail of sedatives and sleeping aids supplied by the world’s worst therapist.

Reading My Year of Rest and Relaxation in the dreary month of January, it was easy to get on board with the narrators unconventional plan. Curling up under a blanket watching re runs of Pretty Woman and drifting in and out of a never ending slumber seems like heaven in comparison to the icy cold 8am commute. Many would argue that anyone privileged enough to be in such a position that they don’t need to head to their 9-5 job day in-day out is to be envied. In the case of our nameless narrator, however, there’s a predictably dark tale behind her plans for chemical hibernation.

The narrator switches between past and present, offering a glimpse of difficult events in her past. A lot of the book, however, follows her daily routine. Knocking back a handful of Ativan with her two daily bodega coffees, binge watching Whoopi Goldberg movies, calling her ex, and getting visits from her bulimic best friend, Reva. 

There’s a comfort that comes with reading a book where so little happens, but still offers so much to think about. By the end of the book, Ottessa Moshfegh’s darkly satirical tone, and the narrators outlook, experience a major shift. Eventually, the dreamlike and drug-fuelled haze Moshfegh leads us through is interrupted by an ending that brings the wake up call you didn’t know this story needed.

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