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My Year of Rest and Relaxation: A Novel Paperback – June 25, 2019
A New York Times Bestseller
“One of the most compelling protagonists modern fiction has offered in years: a loopy, quietly furious pillhead whose Ambien ramblings and Xanaxed b*tcheries somehow wend their way through sad and funny and strange toward something genuinely profound.” — Entertainment Weekly
“Darkly hilarious . . . [Moshfegh’s] the kind of provocateur who makes you laugh out loud while drawing blood.” —Vogue
From one of our boldest, most celebrated new literary voices, a novel about a young woman's efforts to duck the ills of the world by embarking on an extended hibernation with the help of one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature and the battery of medicines she prescribes.
Our narrator should be happy, shouldn't she? She's young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance. But there is a dark and vacuous hole in her heart, and it isn't just the loss of her parents, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend, Reva. It's the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?
My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a powerful answer to that question. Through the story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs designed to heal our heroine from her alienation from this world, Moshfegh shows us how reasonable, even necessary, alienation can be. Both tender and blackly funny, merciless and compassionate, it is a showcase for the gifts of one of our major writers working at the height of her powers.
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“Ottessa Moshfegh is easily the most interesting contemporary American writer on the subject of being alive when being alive feels terrible. She has a freaky and pure way of accessing existential alienation, as if her mind were tapped directly into the sap of some gnarled, secret tree . . . Watching Moshfegh turn her withering attention to the gleaming absurdities of pre-9/11 New York City, an environment where everyone except the narrator seems beset with delusional optimism, horrifically carefree, feels like eating bright, slick candy—candy that might also poison you.” —Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker
“Darkly comic and ultimately profound new novel. . . Moshfegh’s extraordinary prose soars as it captures her character’s re-engagement.” —Vendela Vida, The New York Times Book Review
“Because this is a novel by the superabundantly talented Moshfegh—she’s an American writer of Croatian and Iranian descent—we know in advance that it will be cool, strange, aloof and disciplined. The sentences will be snipped as if the writer has an extra row of teeth . . . Moshfegh writes with so much misanthropic aplomb, however, that she is always a deep pleasure to read. She has a sleepless eye and dispenses observations as if from a toxic eyedropper . . . Though this novel is set nearly 20 years ago, it feels current. The thought of sleeping through this particular moment in the world’s history has appeal.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Just finished My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh: caustic, funny, dark addition to the lineage of unlikeable female protagonists (by Mona Awad, Sheila Heti, Anita Brookner, Jean Rhys, Emily Bronte . . . + grandmamas Lady MacBeth + Medea)" —Margaret Atwood via Twitter
“The bravado in Moshfegh’s comprehensive darkness makes her novels both very funny and weirdly exhilarating . . . As in Eileen, Moshfegh excels here at setting up an immediately intriguing character and situation, then amplifying the freakishness to the point that some rupture feels inevitable. Her confidence never flags; hers are the novels of a writer invigoratingly immune to uncertainty and self-doubt.” —Slate
“One of the most compelling protagonists modern fiction has offered in years: a loopy, quietly furious pillhead whose Ambien ramblings and Xanaxed bitcheries somehow wend their way through sad and funny and strange toward something genuinely profound.” —Entertainment Weekly, Best Books of 2018
“A strange, exhilarating triumph . . . Moshfegh writes with a singular wit and clarity that, on its own, would be more than enough. (Her 2015 debut, Eileen, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and Rest has already been optioned for film by Australian actress Margot Robbie). But the cumulative power of her narrative—and the sharp turn she takes in its last 30 pages—becomes nothing less than a revelation: sad, funny, astonishing, and unforgettable.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Moshfegh’s tale of self-care gone off the rails is a caustically funny skewering of artistic pretension and consumption, but also a meditation on grief, privilege and social cohesion.” —Huffington Post
“The most exciting book of 2018 is about a girl sleeping for a year . . . Ingenious, darkly comedic . . . The novel speeds to the best last page of any book I’ve likely ever read.” —Vice
“This book isn’t just buzzy and maniacally entertaining—it’s a mean-spirited, tenderhearted masterpiece.” —New York Post
“My Year of Rest and Relaxation is the most poignant, vulnerable, mature, and—dare I say it?—sincere work that its gifted author has yet produced.” —Boston Globe
“In flat, deadpan, unembellished prose recalling the cadences of Joan Didion and the clear-eyed candor of Mary Gaitskill, Moshfegh portrays the vacuous interior life (she has virtually no exterior life) of a narcissistic personality simultaneously self-loathing and self-displaying . . . My Year of Rest and Relaxation is most convincing as an urbane dark comedy, sharp-eyed satire leavened by passages of morbid sobriety, as in a perverse fusion of Sex and the City and Requiem for a Dream.” —Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books
“Bizarrely fascinating . . . Moshfegh knows how to spin perversity and provocation into fascination, and bleakness into surprising tenderness.” —NPR
“It’s another acerbic character study from an author making a career out of bringing absurdly unlikable people to life. No one can discomfit a reader quite like her.” —A.V. Club
“One of the pleasures of reading Ottessa Moshfegh is that—unusually, these days—she rarely writes in the present tense. Instead, the sense of immediacy, the sense of being inside a character, the sense of things happening and having psychic value, both to the writer and her reader, is provided by the structure and content of her sentences. . . . One of the other pleasures of reading Moshfegh is her relentless savagery. All this is delivered as comic—it is comic—but it’s not exactly funny, though of course we laugh.” —Guardian
“Darkly hilarious . . . [Moshfegh’s] the kind of provocateur who makes you laugh out loud while drawing blood.” —Vogue
“Electrifying. . . a reminder that there is something to life outside the economic exchange of time for money and money for goods, even if that unnamed thing is obscure and perplexing and just a bit monstrous—particularly as a woman. Literature may not have the all the answers, but it can show us the power and allure of saying no.” —Vanity Fair
“I was cringing during every moment of Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, and yet I could not put the book down . . . It is mostly, almost by juxtaposition, about the realness of a more subtle and very private expression of pain, no matter the cause, no matter how seemingly trivial. That’s what kept me reading even as my cringing muscles grew sore: feeling in my screwed-up face, barked laughs, and watery eyes the translation of that private kind of pain into something I could share.” —Claire Benoit, The Paris Review
“There’s a casually intimidating power to Moshfegh’s writing—the deadpan frankness and softly cutting sentences—that makes any comparison feel not quite right.” —Anne Diebel, London Review of Books
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 25, 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0525522131
- ISBN-13 : 978-0525522133
- Item Weight : 8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.03 x 0.81 x 7.68 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #6,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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In short this is a book about a young woman who schemes to use sleeping pills, psychotropic drugs, and alcohol to put herself to sleep for a year. What a horrible idea when so many deaths occur from prescription drug abuse. There were no redeeming qualities to this book including character development.
By H. Anderson on August 15, 2018
In an attempt to become a better person and live a more meaningful life, our unnamed narrator embarks on a year of self-induced hibernation, convinced that she’ll come out on the other side transformed and better adjusted. With the help of a horrifically unethical psychiatrist, she begins her year of rest and relaxation, desperate for the perfect combination of pills to significantly limit her consciousness.
It’s an outrageous premise that plays out in stream-of-consciousness prose, including flashbacks to the formative events in her life that may helped contribute to her current state. The narrator is highly unlikeable: misanthropic, shallow, vain, selfish. Like a caricature of a miserable young rich woman.
Most stories like this would be a scathing indictment of medication and unhealthy coping methods, but Moshfegh suggests that sometimes transformation and healing can come from the unlikeliest places. On the other hand, this also feels very much like a satire of privileged self-care: the narrator is beautiful, independently wealthy and able to indulge in a full year of idleness—even potentially come out okay on the other end. The concept of being able to sleep away one’s misery and emerge transformed is covetous indeed, but so unrealistic for most that its straight up absurd.
There’s a lot of redundancy in this book and not much of a plot. This may deter some readers. But Moshfegh’s voice is so brutal, uncompromising and compelling that none of that mattered to me.
Moshfegh makes you cringe and shake your head all while having you root for this unlikable character’s twisted metamorphosis.
Top reviews from other countries
I found a kind of voyeuristic interest in all the (prescription) drugs she took but whilst I don't really know enough to judge, I couldn't help thinking that if she'd actually taken all that it would have made her a lot more ill and quite possibly led to a rather different ending (and yes I know some of the medication was fictitious but I'm not sure that makes it any better). As she also seemed depressed and traumatised by her life as a backdrop to her decision to have a year of R&R, it would have been much more interesting and relevant to have heard a bit more about this and would certainly have given some colour and dimension to the character.
I also thought her psychiatrist was thoroughly unlikely and the scenes between the two reminded me considerably of the much-better drawn patient/practitioner piece in Miranda July's The First Bad Man.
Nice cover and intriguing title, but doesn't live up to either. Not funny either really - I get what we were supposed to be laughing at, but tbh it was not my idea of a laugh, even a dark one.
Eztelle isn't a sympathetic protagonist. She keeps reminding us of how beautiful she is every few pages. Just no.
I won't be reading anything else by Ottessa.
So. "My Year of Rest and Relaxation". We are introduced to three ladies, who are presented to us solely for the sake of entertainment: the nameless main character, who God knows how is still alive if you take into account the rainbow of pharma she consumes 24/7, her beautiful friend Reva, a walking disaster and a thesaurus of quotes of the “help yourself” variety, silently suffering from bulimia, and Dr. Tuttle, a psychotherapist/shaman. All of them are multifaceted, beautiful and unique, not unlike the snowflakes. All possess a variety of problems, just dig a bit deeper. Each of them could be a marvelous heroine of a book in her own right. Love them!
If you think that the book about a rich if troublesome girl ("tall and thin and blond and pretty and young") going to sleep by way of narcotic hibernation is not your cup of tea – I urge you to reconsider. This is a great book. But man this book is so much more than just a story about the nameless sleeping beauty! It's scary stuff!
Moshfegh’s new book is another tough nut, which will not be liked by everyone (think about all the [metaphorically] broken teeth). But if you like black humor, sarcasm and satire – this is cool stuff. Passivity as a rebellion has never looked so enticing.
Ottessa, let me buy you a drink!
I think I might not have ‘gotten’ it and that ending was just meh. Especially as soon as her friend got promoted, I was like she’s going to die in 9/11.
Again, not sure I got it, but it doesn’t seem to be about anything. If you were to describe the plot, it would be woman wants to sleep for a year, woman takes pills to stay asleep for a year, the end.
To be fair, by the time it was £1.99 on the kindle, my expectations were high. So maybe it would have always been a strong ok book.
And despite saying all this, I found myself reaching for the kindle as much as possible and not noticing how far I was into it, because it sucks you up in it’s world.
The narrator of this novel is unnamed, blonde, beautiful, thin and has enough money to live without working. Having given up her job in a New York art gallery, she decides to live on the rent money from her parent’s house, go on unemployment and start a plan to hibernate for a year…
This is a difficult novel to review, as much of the ‘action’ revolves around the thoughts of our narrator. Her search for a therapist willing to dole out prescription drugs like sweeties, in order to aid her constant sleeping. The neediness of her friend, Reva, bulimic and having an affair with a married man. Her calls to Trevor, a past lover. Mostly, though, this is about her love affair with medication and the effects it has on her.
When she begins to venture out of her apartment while hardly conscious, have black outs and spend her money on items she cannot recall ordering, you are pulled into her dreamlike world. Only events, like the death of Reva’s mother, while resented as making her interact with the world, reveal some of her own history and force her outside the walls of her self-imposed house arrest. I was stunned by this novel and adored every page. I need to read more by the wonderful Ottessa Moshfegh and I am grateful that I was led to read her.