cover image My Year of Rest and Relaxation

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Ottessa Moshfegh. Penguin Press, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-52211-9

The latest from Booker finalist Moshfegh (following the story collection Homesick for Another World) is a captivating and disquieting novel about a woman's quest to sleep for a year. The unnamed narrator is in her 20s, lives alone on the Upper East Side, has plenty of money from her inheritance, and decides to hibernate with chemical assistance in the year 2000 in order to "drown out her thoughts" and avoid the world, since she "hate[s] everyone and everything." Her only relationships are with the cashiers at her bodega, where she picks up meager supplies like coffee and animal crackers; her quack psychiatrist Dr. Tuttle, who dispenses pills like candy; and Trevor and Reva, her on-and-off boyfriend and college friend, respectively, neither of whom she likes much. For a while, the narrator's plan works: she takes "upwards of a dozen pills a day," watches movies on VHS, and willfully blanks out her life ("I was more of a somniac. A somnophile."). But when Dr. Tuttle's medication regimen intensifies and the narrator experiences strange, activity-filled blackouts from a drug called Infermiterol, she escalates her plan, with potentially fatal consequences. Though the novel drags a bit in the middle, leading up to the Infermiterol plan, it showcases Moshfegh's signature mix of provocation and dark humor. Following the narrator's dire trajectory is challenging but undeniably fascinating, likely to incite strong reactions and much discussion among readers. (July)