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Book Review: “My Year of Rest and Relaxation”

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Ottessa Moshfegh

Hardcover, 289 pages

Publication Date: July 10, 2018

Publisher: Penguin Press

Genre: Fiction

I wish I could give more detail to the genre description of this book, but besides fiction, the theme of this book is too general for most genre terms. I could call it “chick lit,” since a woman wrote it, and the main characters are women, but chick lit is usually about romance. This book is not a romance novel, and the term chick-lit is a little ridiculous, although this is beside the point.

Maybe describing the plot will shed some light on the genre. “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” is told in first person, although the reader never finds out who this first-person narrator is. We learn a lot about her: she graduated from art school, lives in New York City and works in a gallery there. She has a friend named Reva and an on-again, off-again relationship with Trevor. Her parents are dead, and she loves to sleep.

We never learn this character’s name, but we do discover a lot about who she is as a person. One day, she decides to sleep for a year and concocts an elaborate plan to do so. She finds a therapist who is more than willing to believe her flimsy stories about insomnia and prescribes her hundreds of pills, which our main character uses to pass days at a time in a sedated stupor.

As months go by in a haze of drug-induced sleep, broken up only by therapy visits and trips to get food, the main character slowly begins to realize her plan to sleep a year away in order to start over with a blank slate is not working the way she thought it would. Life refuses to get easier, no matter how much sleep she gets.

I found myself a little confused before I started reading “My Year of Rest and Relaxation.” It seemed difficult to believe that a nearly 300-page book about a woman sleeping could be interesting. Surprisingly, it was. I find myself thinking about this book fondly, although I was ambivalent about it shortly after I finished it.

The best part about this book is the writing. Moshfegh made a book about a sleeping woman wonderfully interesting. Even when the plot was moving slowly, the writing kept my attention. I enjoy sleeping to get away from life, so I was able to relate to the premise of the story in that sense.

However, it is hard to get over the main character’s ability to drop everything in her life to sleep. The money situation is vaguely explained—a fund from her parents—but it ruined my suspension of disbelief, and it was hard to relate to the character after that. I am sure plenty of people would love to stop working in order to take some time for themselves, but it is not practical or doable for the vast majority of people. In that sense, the main character seemed pretentious and a little insufferable.

Overall, “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” provides a deep dive into one woman’s psyche in such a way I could hardly put the book down. While the money situation was not realistic, the thoughts and feelings of the characters, which makes up the majority of the book, were.

Paige Holmes is a junior journalism major from Topeka, KS. Reading is her favorite thing to do because it teaches one how to think, imagine and live. Paige believes there is no better way to learn something or be entertained than by reading a book. Her favorite genre of books is fantasy/thriller and her favorite book is ‘Opening Moves’ by Steven James.

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