Ottessa Moshfegh’s book My Year Of Rest And Relaxation is a strange one. The premise of the novel is simple: the unnamed main character uses a medley of medications (sleeping, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic) to fall asleep for months on end, leaving behind the best friend she holds in contempt and the on-and-off-again older boyfriend who goes back to her when women his age reject him. It's a long novel spanning three hundred pages of, mainly, the same thing: the snarky main character waking up and dealing with the aftermath of what she had done while unconscious. Mounds of Chinese takeout laid in her apartment. Random furniture replacing the regular one. It’s interesting, to say the least, to have her recount these happenings and then sleep and wait for her to wake up again.
I remember reading the book and being angry. Moshfegh doesn’t hide or understate the abnormous privilege the main character has—she’s a WASP, living on unemployment checks and what’s left of her trust fund after her parents died six weeks apart her senior year at Columbia. But I wasn’t mad at her being able to take this sort of vacation from life itself. I didn’t know. It seemed so weird to pin it on me being angry about wasting her own life away when it was her life to waste.
A lot of Google Reviews argue that the book drags. I would agree with this sentiment, but, to me, it is skillful. Yes, it did feel repetitive to just find out the progression of what the main character did while she was unconscious, with no motivation whatsoever in most of the novel but to sleep, but in of itself, we experience the life the narrator wanted to live to a T. Repetitive, boring. The time spent on that period of time drives away from what we as people do constantly—put value on ourselves as human beings based on what we accomplish. The idea that my accomplishments meant nothing to a woman who just wanted to sleep seemed awful to me. What is life without acknowledgment?
It’s that inner response to the novel that makes My Year Of Rest And Relaxation worth it.