My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh has been on my book bucket list for some time now, and I finally got around to reading it this winter. This novel explores the ugly emotions and feelings people go through that aren’t often discussed in most media. The book follows an unnamed narrator who is suffering from severe depression around her late 20s after the deaths of her unloving parents and has decided that the only way to ease her mind is by falling into a medically-induced coma for a year. The narrator- a wealthy, WASPy, detached pessimist living in the Upper East Side Pre-9/11, is only able to hibernate thanks to her unprofessional and quacky psychiatrist, Dr. Tuttle. Moshfegh approaches cosmetic psychiatry and its impact on our culture in a satirical and deeply entertaining way- making for a reading experience filled with laughs. Dr. Tuttle never really listens to our narrator’s woes, and instead incorrectly diagnoses her with insomnia and prescribes a myriad of drugs- Valium, Nembutal, Neuroproxin, Silencior, Xanax, Placidyl, Noctec, Infermiterol…- to keep her calm and asleep. The narrator leaves her apartment only to get more meds or on blackouts caused by one of the drugs’ side effects. As her year of sleep develops, and her dependency on her prescribed pills worsens, our narrator falls into a downward spiral and we see her strong disdain and disinterest for most human experiences increase. Every time she finishes a prescription, Dr. Tuttle immediately fills it or replaces it with a stronger drug. As what’s left of her life unravels, and she further submerges herself in a deep fog of detachment, our narrator starts losing her ability to connect with others. While My Year of Rest and Relaxation is criticized for having no plot, this is just because it is more of a character driven story than a plot driven story, which isn’t always for everyone. This is exactly what made me love the book so much though, because in the span of 300 pages I was able to become intimately acquainted with a character’s mind and its workings, without even knowing the character’s name. I also appreciated the dark and isolating way Moshfegh paints depression, and how, sometimes, those breaks we take from life in the name of mental health can throw us down a dark rabbit hole of misery. For me personally, this book had it all. It made me laugh, feel depressed, sympathetic and awkward at times where I needed to close the book because of the second-hand embarrassment.
*Read this book if you like The Bell Jar or The Catcher in The Rye*