My Year of Rest and Relaxation: A Book Review

Do you ever just want to sleep through a few months of your life, and wake up as somebody completely different? Over the winter break I had plenty of time to kick back and relax. I breezed through a stack of books from my local library, all of which I enjoyed, however one of them had a huge impression on me. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh had everything that captivated me in a book--it was dark, yet humorous, and the characters seemed so real, I felt connected to them.

Set in the year 2000 in New York City, our unnamed protagonist falls into a drug-induced hibernation catalysed by her extravagant psychiatrist after dealing with the death of her two parents. Our character is a young, twenty-something graduate of a prestigious university. She is wealthy, intelligent, and pretty, so you’d think she has it all. Yet, in the midst of her parents’ death, as well as struggles in her personal life, she quite literally wishes to wake up and be someone completely different.

 

The characters were all a little awful in their own way, yet I found myself laughing at the ridiculous hilarity of their blunt humour and struggles. Her best and only friend from college, Reva, constantly interrupts her hibernation with stories from her frivolous life. Her stories range from the married man at the office she’s sleeping with, to the girls she’s jealous of, to the darker struggle of having a sick mother. The protagonist’s psychiatrist, Dr. Tuttle, adds to the list of foolish characters, and is immensely awful yet comical. She is quick to prescribe our protagonist all of the pills, yet fails to get to the root of her issues. The on and off boyfriend, Trevor, makes a couple appearances, mostly in our main character’s memories. The supporting characters bring spunk and drama into what seems like a banal story.

This novel was unlike many others that I’ve read, and one of the aspects that made it seem that way was the nameless protagonist. Honestly, I didn’t notice she didn’t have a name until halfway through the book. I thought I had missed something, but she really doesn’t have a name that is mentioned. It didn’t seem odd to me, though. Moshfeh’s writing style was so unique. I felt so connected with the character, and being exposed to her innermost thoughts and memories made it feel like I was on this sleepy adventure with her. It all felt so real.

 

This novel is dark and raw in the sense that it deals with the honest reality of mental illness, but adds humour that’s not insensitive or rude. If you want something light and fun, this is not the right book for you. However if you want a multi-layered novel full of dark humour and intensity, Moshfegh’s latest novel should be on your list.