My Year of Rest and Relaxation // Ottessa Moshfegh

There was no escaping My Year of Rest and Relaxation this summer.  Visit any bookish website, and its iconic hot pink text and classic cover art was plastered on the front page.  Scroll through bookstagram, and Moshfegh’s name appeared in post after post.  Browse any bookshop, and it was prominently displayed on the front table.  I try to avoid over-hyped books at all costs, but I gave in for this one, and I’m glad I did.

I snatched up my copy at McNally Jackson a few weeks ago, while staying on the Upper East Side, weirdly enough just a few blocks away from where our unnamed narrator lives.  It was one of those instances where I read a book at the absolute perfect time.  Reading My Year of Rest and Relaxation in New York definitely heightened my reading experience; this book feels, in every sense, like a New York Novel, and I’m not convinced I could’ve accessed the full meaning had I not been in the very city where it takes place.


From the jacket:

Our narrator has many of the advantages in life, on the surface.  Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance.  But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents while she was in college, or the miserable way her Wall Street sometimes-boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend.  It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a powerful answer to that very question.  Through the story of a year spent by a young woman under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs prescribed to heal people from alienation and existential ennui, Moshfegh shows us how reasonable, even necessary that alienation sometimes is.  Tender and blackly funny, merciless and compassionate, it is a showcase for the gifts and the rewards of one of our major writers working at the height of her powers.


“Sleep felt productive.  Something was getting sorted out.  I knew in my heart- this was, perhaps, the only thing my heart knew back then- that when I’d slept enough, I’d be okay.  I’d be renewed, reborn.  I would be a whole new person, every one of my cells regenerated enough times that the old cells were just distant, foggy memories.  My past life would be but a dream, and I could start over without regrets, bolstered by the bliss and serenity that I would have accumulated in my year of rest and relaxation.”

-Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation


My Year of Rest and Relaxation presents a very privileged yet very depressed narrator.  Unnamed, she is somewhat unlikeable in her trust-fund, Upper East Side ways, and yet she isn’t the biggest fan of herself either.  Drowning in the world after the death of her parents and the latest break-up with her on-again-off-again boyfriend Trevor, she takes self-care to the extreme by creating endless amounts of prescription drug cocktails, prescribed to her by an aloof psychologist, so that she may escape the world and sleep for a year.  This book, weird and wonderful in so many ways, touches on an abundance of topics, from mental health to inauthenticity, while focusing on the narrator’s relationships, healthy and unhealthy.  Moshfegh is a very polarizing writer but My Year of Rest and Relaxation reminded me very much of The Idiot in its tone and content, so it should come as no surprise that I loved this one as well.  Despite the cliché ending, the last page crushed my soul and left me hungry for more.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation is not an “enjoyable” book, it’s not a “feel-good” book.  It’s about the ugly, depressing parts of life, the parts that make you want to hole up in your apartment and literally sleep for a year, to hide from masochistic, pretentious boyfriends and irritating, nettlesome best friends.  If anything, this book made me feel awful.  Yet, I loved every minute of it.  Suddenly, I want to devour everything Moshfegh has every written (thank God I planned ahead and bought Eileen).  Sign me up for the Ottessa Moshfegh Fan Club.

Further reading: “Ottessa Moshfegh Plays to Win” by Kaitlin Phillips, The Cut; “Ottessa Moshfegh’s Otherworldly Fiction” by Ariel Levy, The New Yorker.

Find this book on Goodreads.

10 thoughts on “My Year of Rest and Relaxation // Ottessa Moshfegh

  1. I’m so glad you loved this, and it’s so cool that you read it in Manhattan! I got major Idiot vibes from this as well. There’s something about this style of narration that I just find so enchanting. And the last page was like a gut-punch, I just loved it so much. I need to read more Moshfegh too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly, it was such a weird experience for me, reading it in New York and actually being able to picture everywhere she described! It was SO similar to THE IDIOT… I think both might make my favorites for the year!! I just can’t stop thinking about either book! Beyond happy I have EILEEN hanging out on my nightstand, even though I’m still reading PACHINKO, which is amazing and will probably be a new favorite too. So many good picks recently! Have you read EILEEN?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahhh yes I LOVED Pachinko, that was in my top 3 last year! Can’t wait to read your review! And I love reading books set in New York because I have such a clear picture of that city in my head, but reading it in that setting must have just enhanced everything! I haven’t read any other Moshfegh but I definitely want to read Eileen next. Trying to plow through the Bookers so I can catch up with everything else I’m dying to read!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oooo yay! I’m about halfway through PACHINKO, and it’s gorgeous so far. I haven’t read any Bookers this year, because school is slowly killing me and I’ve literally had to read 2-3 books per week, but I’ve loved reading your reviews! I feel like we have similar reading taste, so I’m rooting for your Booker favorites to be on the shortlist. I can’t believe it’s announced on Thursday!!

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      3. That sounds so miserable, I’m still impressed you’ve been able to do any reading for fun lately! But I know what you mean, I still love following people’s reactions to literary prizes even when I’m not reading a longlist myself. I’m very excited for the shortlist announcement. I’m on my ninth right now and loving it – so far there are only 2 I’ve rated below 4 stars, so it’s looking good for my faves at the moment!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. That’s amazing! It seems like a very strong list. It probably seems bizarre that I’m so excited for the shortlist even though I haven’t read any of them, but, as you know, I love the process! I can’t wait to see how your thoughts compare to the titles that make it. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so excited for this one!! Think I’ll try to squeeze it in to my late september/early october TBR. Glad you liked it! For some reason I didn’t feel like I saw it too much before I bought it which is funny. Like I saw it a couple times and didn’t really like the cover and then heard about it on All The Books and knew I needed it 😛 funny how that works!

    Liked by 1 person

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