My Year of Rest and Relaxation

I loved , Moshfegh’s runaway hit 2016 debut. It was a favorite of critics that year and also made some inroads among literary readers. I also loved her short story collection last year. So I was thrilled to see her name come up again this year with a sophomoric release.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation did not disappoint. It contains more of the same self-obsessed and self-loathing characters, absurd behavioral instincts, hilarious, dead-pan observations and Moshfegh’s now-patented zero-fucks-given writing style that I’ve come to love. She is a worthy, and possibly better, heir to Charles Bukowski than Bret Easton-Ellis ever was. Moshfegh may have accomplished what David Foster Wallace tried to set out to do in The Pale King—to write a book about boredom. In her case, Moshfegh is writing about sleep, a more interesting cousin of boredom perhaps, but somehow a fascinating subject in her hands.

Like The Vegetarian in 2016, Moshfegh paints a character portrait here of a supremely unlikeable woman, with whom you build empathy one pill at a time. Unlike The Vegetarian, which took an absurdist but immensely satisfying turn at the end, this book goes in a different direction. At first, I thought this turn wasn’t quite working for me. But then the last page, and the last sentence especially, knocked me back and made the ending all worth it.

This book is not for everyone. It is as a portrait of anxiety, and grief, and insularity; an absurd journey into the mind of an addict and a recluse; an exploration of what it means to truly unplug and commit to self-care. But if you sign up for this tour of the mind with Otessa Moshfegh, you at least know what you’re getting into.