What am I reading? My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Ugh this book.

Synopsis: This is 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.

I hated basically every part of this book.

There isn’t a single redeeming quality about any of the main characters. The narrator, our “heroine”, is an objectively terrible person. She’s lived a life of privilege, and it doesn’t seem that the loss of her parents really bothered her that much. Her mother was cold, and her father was largely absent, and she’s acquired those traits as well. She has a toxic relationship with a dude named Trevor who works on Wall Street and prefers older women because they’re less drama. He’s a total shitbag, and they feed off of each other’s worst traits. She doesn’t even like him, but she likes that he wants her, and that’s good enough for her.

Her therapist deserves to be in jail. She combines the worst parts of therapy with some New Age nonsense, and liberally prescribes pills. Not a good thing, but she provides the main character with endless validation for her bullshit and all the drugs she could ever need.

Then there’s her best friend. Reva is a bit of a mess, but she’s struggling with a parental illness as well. She means well and tries to get the main character to bathe and be a person, and it bites her in the ass. The main character is just rotten to her. I don’t know that I’d keep Reva as a friend because she’s also spoiled and terrible, but she’s the best part of the book. It’s a low bar.

I try not to leave books unfinished, but I couldn’t bring myself to finish this. I got about 75% through it and just got too annoyed. I can’t imagine that things got better in the last quarter of the book, given how little desire there was for change or growth among any of these characters. Save yourself the time. Skip this one.


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