Monday, February 18, 2019

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

This is my first experience with a Moshfegh novel and it was definitely that - an experience. It is hard to categorize this book as to whether it was funny, depressing, or puzzling. The premise is that the narrator opts to take a year off life and hibernate while filling her body with drugs and television, and old movies. 

Set in 2000, the narrator has worked at a gallery but was fired because of sleeping on the job. She has two friends, Reva a classmate from Columbia and Trevor, a boyfriend from college who are a part of her solitary life. While at Columbia she is orphaned when her parents die within months of each other, causing anguish and despair. The most despicable character in the novel is Dr. Tuttle, her psychiatrist. At many points did I want to slap this woman for feeding the narrator a pharmacological diet of nothing but pills without any regard for interaction or what they would do to a person. But as a result of her parents' deaths, there is an unspecified amount of money and wealth to enable her to not work and have an apartment in NYC. 

As the reader is privy to her year of hibernation, it triggers almost a feeling of pity for the young woman. Reva tries to reason with her, but as a person dealing with her own issues, bulimia, her credibility loses some validity. As the two drive to attend Reva's mother's funeral, their relationship seems to strengthen and the then crumble. At unexpected turns she shows up in the narrator's apartment. She appears one day, depressed, that she she had broken up with her boyfriend, who was also her boss and was consequently being transferred to a new department located in the World Trade Center. (Just a bit of foreshadowing. On another occasion raids the medicine chest to take all of the pills. Upon waking up from a blackout period, the narrator rushes to Reva's where she, indeed, finds the pills. This solidifies her plan of hibernation for four months. 

There is no reason to reveal the ending. That is left for the reader to discover. Moshfegh is a master of language and developing the characters through their voices and the narrator's reaction to their conversations and descriptions. It will be an interesting lecture at the Ten Literary Evenings on 18 February when Moshfegh speaks about her books.