Review: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

I feel like this book succeeded only because of the cover?

“I trusted that everything was going to work out fine as long as I could sleep all day.”

I can see why this would get recommended next to The Idiot. They both feature that period between college and whatever comes after. But whereas The Idiot is focused on a more introverted introspective character, this book is similar to the art in it: living on those in-your-face shocking comments. Like, anyone wanna read about a character taking a shit on a museum floor? Go ahead and check out My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

I saw a reviewer mention HBO’s Girls, and I can definitely see fans of the show eating this kind of writing up. However, this wasn’t my style. It took me about halfway through the novel to realize there would be nothing new in this novel, just this endless rinse and repeat of self-loathing and drug intake. AKA: the point when I realized I do not like this storyline at all.

I just kept waiting for that moment to hit when there would be some introspective insight or some deep connection or moment of realization for the main character. Some growth. It never came. This is just a suicidal pact of taking in as many drugs as possible.

“Nothing seemed really real. Sleeping, waking, it all collided into one gray, monotonous plane ride through the clouds. I didn’t talk to myself in my head. There wasn’t much to say. This was how I knew the sleep was having an effect: I was growing less and less attached to life. If I kept going, I thought, I’d disappear completely, then reappear in some new form. This was my hope. This was the dream.”

When the goal is to disconnect from reality, this numbness can lead to the reader not feeling attached to the story at all. “Life was repetitive, resonated at a low hum.” The book, too. The whole of this book can be summed up as: “I can’t sleep, I need to dissociate, I’m taking this drug and mixing it with this sample from my drug dealer doctor…. and where am I and what happened these three days?” Rinse-repeat. I wish I were exaggerating.

Speaking of, Dr. Tuttle reminded me of that realtor in Broad City. She even has the same cursed neck brace, too.

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My favorite side character in the show. However, in this book the negligence on Dr. Tuttle’s part is too much to bear.

“There was no shortage of psychiatrists in New York City, but finding one as irresponsible and weird as Dr. Tuttle would be a challenge I didn’t think I could handle.”

Too much.

All I wanted from this book was for some emotion or some moment of clarity to shine. To give insight. It was all empty. Head empty, no thoughts. Or many thoughts, let’s drug them out.

– Spoilers from here –
And then the most infuriating is this abrupt ending where the main character (literally can’t even remember her name because all she does is… nothing throughout the whole book) gets up, brushes herself off, and she can seemingly walk away from her addiction with no problem, no withdrawals…. I am confusion.

Also: If I could count the number of times the main character (yep, still can’t remember her name even though I spent five days reading this book) goes out of her way to repeat how pretty she is and, oh, skinny. I wished any side character would be present in the book to condone her actions.

The only thing this book had going for it was the spark it ignited every now and then. That’s the sole thing that kept me going in my reading experience.

“Maybe I’ll ask my dad for money to pay a matchmaker.” “No man is worth paying for,” I told her.” This. “As an art history major, I couldn’t escape them. “Dudes” reading Nietzsche on the subway, reading Proust, reading David Foster Wallace, jotting down their brilliant thoughts into a black Moleskine pocket notebook. Beer bellies and skinny legs, zip-up hoodies, navy blue peacoats or army green parkas, New Balance sneakers, knit hats, canvas tote bags, small hands, hairy knuckles, maybe a deer head tattooed across a flabby bicep. They rolled their own cigarettes, didn’t brush their teeth enough, spent a hundred dollars a week on coffee. They would come into Ducat, the gallery I ended up working at, with their younger—usually Asian—girlfriends. “An Asian girlfriend means the guy has a small dick,” Reva once said.”

Now, I can’t stop spotting these dudes around the city.

“And then there were the dreams about my parents, which I never mentioned to Dr. Tuttle.”
“In a few dreams, I’d answer the phone and hear a long silence, which I interpreted as my mother’s speechless disdain. Or I heard crackling static, and cried out, “Mom? Dad?” into the receiver, desperate and devastated that I couldn’t hear what they were saying.”

These were the kind of moments I wanted more of in this story. Like this next line on her childhood home:

“I wanted to hold on to the house the way you’d hold on to a love letter. It was proof that I had not always been completely alone in this world.”

Moments like this almost made me like the main character. But then it gets drowned in her sea of drugs and numbness.

In all honesty, I think I might favor The Idiot over this any day.

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