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

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

Juliana Zisel


                                                                   ⅘ stars☆


My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a controversial, yet captivating novel by American novelist Ottessa Moshfegh. This novel features an unnamed narrator who seems to have every privilege in existence, including, beauty, wealth and love. She works a low-effort job at an art gallery (hence the photo of Portrait of a Young Woman in White on the cover), is a recent graduate of Columbia University, has a supportive best friend (who she secretly resents), and is left a generous inheritance after both of her parents died within weeks of one another. In spite of all of this, our narrator is deeply unsatisfied with her life, so she embarks on a journey to sleep for an entire year under the guise of “self-care”. This mission, of course, is aided by her peculiar therapist, Dr. Tuttle, along with her overconsumption of various prescribed sedatives, such as the fictitious “infermiterol”. This year-long ritual is riddled with physical and emotional difficulties, but it ultimately evokes a transformation of our narrator into a new woman, one who learns to appreciate true self-care and the importance of healthy relationships. 

After seeing mixed reviews online for months, I decided to give this book a try. At first, I was completely uninterested with the plot, but I continued to attempt to finish it so that I could discuss and analyze it with my peers. As the story progressed, it became increasingly more intense, so much so that I had to put the book down at certain points. 

Although I recognize certain flaws within the book, they are completely trivial compared to the powerful story told in My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Although it was first published in 2018, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,  Moshfegh’s raw depiction of mental health made me feel seen as a young woman living through a pandemic. Prior to quarantine, I lived a fast paced life, similar to that of the narrator (on a much, much smaller scale, of course). When I entered quarantine, however, I felt overwhelmed by my lack of responsibilities. Instead of attempting to sleep for a year, however, I discovered new hobbies/creative outlets. Still, I related to the narrator’s existential crisis when her faced-paced life came to a sudden halt. 

I enjoyed this book a lot and I would recommend it to anyone, but especially to fans of similar works such as Girl, Interrupted and The Bell Jar due to their shared themes of mental health. Overall, I believe many different types of people can take something valuable away from this book, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty and isolation that often accompanies discussions surrounding it.