My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Cute title but there’s a word missing because this one’s much more My INDULGENT Year of Rest and Relaxation.
And it is kind of a trick title because I’m anything but relaxed having read it. There were a lot of ‘are you kidding me’ faces pulled as I ploughed on, but the most important bit of that sentence is having read it….yep, I did. Every line right to the very end. And having ditched a couple of books of late, that is saying something. I was frustrated with this one, but clearly not enough to chuck it.
Young, beautiful and financially independent after her parents’ death, our narrator lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of New York, has a hideous relationship with her on/off boyfriend and a sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend. Then, one day, she decides to check out of life and live a whole year in a drug and alcohol-induced coma on her lounge.
Doesn’t exactly make for a riveting book but if you read Animal by Lisa Taddeo, I think we may have found her little sister.
Many reviewers have described it as very dark and sure, living a whole year with the shades pulled down definitely is.
I can’t say I liked it. She (you never know her name) is not likeable at all but I am a huge fan of the author and loved Eileen and there are whiffs of that earlier book and the plight of the desperate, acerbic, savage anti-heroine. So I stayed with it.
The story feels really hopeless and desperate right up until the end when a world-changing event occurs and we’re left shaken, stirred and hollowed out. After the lunacy of her year, and the frustration endured reading about the rich, white, beautiful character’s self imposted sabbatical from life, this heartbreaking ending feels actually very poetic. Almost life-affirming.
Life really is for living it seems. Go figure.
But that is just my two cents worth.