“My Year of Rest and Relaxation”: Frustratingly Brilliant


Caitlin Maughan

“My Year of Rest and Relaxation” was named one of the best books of the year by numerous publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. The New York Times described Moshfegh as “an inspired literary witch doctor.”

Caitlin Maughan, Opinion Editor

Have you ever taken a mental health day? Many people have; it’s normal to get overwhelmed sometimes and it’s necessary to take a break every now and again to relax and recharge.


The narrator in the novel “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” by Ottessa Moshfegh, takes mental health day to the extreme when she decides to hibernate for 15 months. In this twisted tale of metamorphosis, an unnamed young woman has a seemingly perfect life. However, there is a dark hole in her heart and she believes that sleeping for a year will cure her depression and restore her will to live. 


In the narrator’s words: “Sleep felt productive. Something was getting sorted out. I knew in my heart—this was, perhaps, the only thing my heart knew back then—that when I’d slept enough, I’d be okay. I’d be renewed, reborn. I would be a whole new person, every one of my cells regenerated enough times that the old cells were just distant, foggy memories. My past life would be but a dream, and I could start over without regrets, bolstered by the bliss and serenity that I would have accumulated in my year of rest and relaxation.”


Though a book about rest and relaxation may sound dull, Moshfegh incorporates captivating internal dialogue and bizarre minor characters that make the novel an interesting and fast-paced read. For instance, no matter how hard she tries, the narrator can not shake her clingy best friend, Reva. Though she is not the main character of this book, Reva is complex and relatable for many readers; she struggles with a severe eating disorder and loses her mother.


However, this story is told from the perspective of a person with no sympathy or compassion. The narrator is a terrible and selfish friend, which makes it hard to like her. But that’s the point. She has lost all motivation and sees no reason to be kind or considerate anymore. It’s an unusual point of view that never fails to surprise you.  


Having said that, Moshfegh is known for writing repulsive characters. While the narrator in “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” is blonde, skinny and beautiful, if you search deeper, you will find qualities that are truly repulsive. The philosophical theme of skin-deep beauty, along with isolation and social status, is prevalent throughout the novel.   


Simply put, this book is not for the faint of heart. It isn’t a fun read. Although, it is an important piece of literature that is both captivating and offers a look inside the mind of a person with unique ambitions, or lack thereof.