My Year Of Rest And Relaxation    Ottessa Moshfegh

fiction | psychological | new york | 9/11

First published 2018

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The unnamed narrator is an Art History graduate from Columbia University whose parents both died while she was in college. She works at a gallery in New York, but is eventually fired after becoming increasingly unreliable at her job. She finds a dubious therapist, Doctor Tuttle, who prescribes an assortment of pills to help the narrator with her "insomnia". She plans to sleep for a year in order to "reset" her life.

The protagonist's ex-college roommate and "best friend", Reva, makes frequent and unannounced visits to the narrator's apartment on the Upper East Side, which the narrator allows despite her disdain for Reva's obsession with social conformity. As the narrator begins to take stronger and stronger medication, prescribed by Doctor Tuttle, she starts to have blackouts and discovers that during these episodes she goes out of her apartment to nightclubs and sometimes wakes up to find herself on a train. Often meeting up with an artist from her gallery, Ping Xi.

The narrator decides that she needs to be locked in her apartment to sleep and reset her life without the inconvenience of the blackouts, and enlists the help of Ping Xi. He agrees to bring her food every 3 days for 4 months and cleans her apartment, leaving behind no trace that he's been there. In return, she allows him to film her, using her as his muse for his new exhibition.

The narrator sleeps until 1st June 2001 and slowly readjusts to waking life. She spends her time sitting in parks and feeding Cornflakes to the squirrels. Her worldview has been reset, exactly as she had hoped, but this time it is Reva who has become distant, and after a phonecall on Reva's birthday in August they never speak again. One month later, 2 planes hit the Twin Towers where Reva works and she is killed in the attack. The narrator likes to think that the footage of a woman jumping out of the towers is her friend.

My Verdict

A darkly funny and deeply sad book that is a satirical critique of the late 90s art scene and the lack of understanding of mental health, amongst other things. I read this really quickly, because it was gripping, and because I really had no idea where the story was going to take me. Although none of the characters were particularly likeable, I think that's exactly what I liked about them. I think it might be true that Moshfegh is one of the most interesting contemporary American writers around right now. Can't wait to read more by her!

Review Award - 4.5/5

Posted 11.11.2022

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