My Year of Rest and Relaxation. I have to admit, the title is the main reason I picked it up. Wondering what it was about I started reading the summary on the back of the book. What I read reminded me of the work of one of my favorite writers: Bret Easton Ellis, the writer of ‘America Psycho’ and ‘Less than Zero’. I just love these kind of bizarre, nihilist stories. That is why I decided to buy it.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation
The book is about a modern, well educated woman that loses her job and decides to sleep for an entire year using prescription medications. I guess you could describe it as some kind of modern hibernation. A self induced coma to temporarily withdraw herself from the world. My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a 2018 novel by American author Ottessa Moshfegh. It is her second novel and was a New York Times bestseller and named Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post and Amazon.
It is the year 2000 and our main (unnamed) character is a young, pretty graduate. She works in an art gallery and lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan which she pays for with her parent’s inheritance. She lost them both a few years earlier. Her father was an intelligent but distant man and her mother used to be pretty and popular. But her life turned out to be different. She became an unhappy alcoholic. A hypochondriac and drug addict that lived in her bedroom.
Our main character has four important people in her life. The most important one is Reva. Her only friend that has a love/hate relationship with her.
The second one is Dr. Tuttle, her psychiatrist. Probably one of the worst psychiatrists ever. Unable to listen and only thinking about herself. Meanwhile she has no problem at all prescribing huge amounts of drugs to our main character.
The third one is Trevor, a Wall Street banker and her ‘boyfriend’ that doesn’t really like her and only uses her for casual sex.
The last one is Ping Xi, a bizarre artist who assists her in the last portion of her year of rest and relaxation.
The book ends a year later at an important moment in modern history
The real reason our main character wants to sleep for a year is not very clear. She feels useless and is unhappy with her superficial life. It seems that she wants to heal herself by taking a long rest. Or maybe she just wants to disappear for a while and start over when she wakes up. She doesn’t really sleep for an entire year. She just blacks out for long periods. When she is awake she takes trips to the bodega for coffee and snacks. Or she has a mandatory visit with her psychiatrist to collect her medication. Sometimes her best friend Reva visits her.
But most of the time she watches old videotapes of 80’s movies. Another thing that reminds me of Bret Easton Ellis, especially his book: American Psycho. The main person of that book listens to – and talks incessantly about – mainstream 80’s pop music. The (superficial?) 80’s movies starring people like Whoopi Goldberg and Harrison Ford seem to remind her of her childhood and numb our main character just as much as the drugs do.
The last period of her hibernation she is helped by the eccentric artist Ping Xi. She has long blackouts during which she does strange things she doesn’t really remember.
The book ends a year after it starts, at an important moment in modern history.
Does she manage to heal herself and start over?
I liked the book. The story is so bizarre that you just keep reading. Which is strange because there is really not a lot happening. But it is intense, well written and just keeps you hooked until you finish it. And is it a happy end? Does she manage to heal herself and start over? Is her life and the world less superficial? Well, read it and decide for yourself.