Complex and Captivating

My Year of Rest and Relaxation - Ottessa Moshfegh

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 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.