Reviewed by Chris Loza
MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION
By Ottessa Moshfegh
304 pp. Penguin Press.
There’s something deeply compelling and oddly fascinating about a woman who decided to shut out the world and drown out her thoughts for a year. In my younger years, I had a strong desire to sleep through my life, because in sleep the voices are hushed, I can dream the most impossible dreams, and those who are dead are alive. This is what drew me to the unnamed narrator immediately. It was as if she lived out a fantasy I once had: sleep all day with nary a care for the world.
She had an emptiness in her, a bottomless void that could only be silenced when asleep. Thus, she sought out a psychiatrist who was equally unbalanced as her to prescribe her pills that would ensure she would only interact with the world at the bare minimum. She closed off her life, talking only to her friend, Reva, when necessary or forced, and to her sometime-lover Trevor when needy.
It’s an interesting premise for a novel. Stretching out everyone’s desire to have a time off with the world not just for a weekend, but for a whole year. Ottessa Moshfegh’s strength as a writer shines through because despite the limited setting and characters, she’s able to keep the reader’s attention through her narrator’s soliloquy that is sometimes vindictive and other times pained.
The story’s timeline made me think that it will run smack to an inevitable real-life event. Even the story arc of Reva and Trevor seem to point to that direction. Still, the ending, especially the last sentence of the last chapter, made my heart do a complete somersault. I thought about that last scene long after I closed the book. I took a deep breath and wondered how some of us could sleepwalk through life when there’s so much to live, so much to do and read; wasting time, the only important currency in this life, as if there’s more of it as we age. While there are others who have little time left face life and the certainty of death with eyes wide open. If anything, what I took from this book is to be conscious of life, to be aware that any time, in a snap of a finger, it could be gone. Don’t wait for someone to wake you up when September ends, because others never did.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh will soon be available at Fully Booked stores. To reserve a copy in advance, email us at email@example.com.
Chris has written on Wattpad, yellowpads, and notepads. A few of his articles are in the dusty archives of Inquirer’s Youngblood and Philippine Star’s My Favorite Book, while one story got lost among the Kindles on Amazon. He works as a Systems Administrator by day and a recluse at night. You can reach him on Twitter and Instagram @cd_loza.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]