Review My Year of Rest and Relaxation: A Novel by Ottessa Moshfegh

On July 10, 2018

A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature. Our narrator has many of the advantages of life, on the surface. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

This story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs, designed to heal us from our alienation from this world, shows us how reasonable, even necessary, that alienation sometimes is. Blackly funny, both merciless and compassionate . This novel is a showcase for the gifts of one of America’s major young writers working at the height of her powers.

 

 

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Review

“Darkly hilarious . . . [Moshfegh’s] the kind of provocateur who makes you laugh out loud while drawing blood.” — Vogue

“You’ll emerge from this darkly hilarious novel not necessarily rested or relaxed but more finely attuned to how delicately fraught the human condition can be.” — Marie Claire 

“Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. . . . A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.” — Kirkus, starred review

“Electrifying. . . Moshfegh’s narrator’s final gesture, transforming herself into a piece of half-living art, echoes the odd and combative passivity of Herman Melville’s Bartleby, a scrivener who suddenly, inexplicably, refuses to perform his duties. . . . In a country that celebrates doers, such a preference is grotesque, an inversion of the American ideal of prospering through hard work. But it also serves as 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 . . . Moshfegh’s protagonist is brutally dreary, and the brutality of her dreariness is often very funny, but the book is really quite serious . . . The book seems to anchor itself to “real” experiences of pain and to validate itself by their relevance . . . But 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, Paris Review

“Moshfegh’s ear remains as merciless as ever. Like a latter-day Flaubert, she delights in vanity and mediocrity, and in the absurdist heights both can reach whenever the occasion calls for a few sincere words.” —Harper’s Magazine

“When we are recommended a book we usually ask, “What is it about?” But with Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation (out July 10 from Penguin), we ask, “What isn’t it about?” This novel takes on self-hatred, feminism, sexuality, mental health, family, and big pharma — AND it’s really f*cking funny. I don’t even want to tell you too much because I went in blind, loving Ottessa from her novel Eileen (also worth a read) and found myself hooting and hollering, vibing on a very different tip than her other work put me on. I’m so impressed that just one lady has written all these very special different things. Also, this book cover will have you kissing millennial pink goodbye and walking over to hot pink’s corner. About time!” —Lena Dunham

 

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