My Year of Rest & Relaxation: A Book Review

As an unpublished writer, I hesitate to pen this review because, well, karma. 

But I assume that if one has decided to become an author than they’ve prepared themselves for sentences like the one I am about to write… 

This book is stupid

Virtually the first 200 plus page novel I’ve taken a chance on since  The Coldest Winter Ever and all I can say is what a waste. I’ll stick with self-help.

I could’ve picked a million other books. I could’ve picked one that changed my life. I could’ve picked my nose and found more useful nuggets than what the author, Ottessa Moshfegh offered. 

But no. Here I am, writing a review for a book I very well could’ve skipped. 

First of all, I bought this book for one reason; the cover was cute. Dassit. 

With it’s bold, hot pink lettering reminiscent of a rave, sitting atop a sullen white woman reminiscent of Virginia Woolf – the contrast caught my eye. Was it a period piece? A rom-com? I had to know. 

Now before you cliche me to death with how you shouldn’t judge a book by its blah, blah, blah, my second draw was the title – as I too desire a year of rest and relaxation. 

I wanted to know how she did it. What’d she have to go through to get such a luxury? What was it like? And whether I could ever be a potential candidate for this literary experiment. 

So I bought it and within the first few pages, my question was answered. No. No, you may not rest and relax for one year Destiny. You unlike the main character of this book are not a trust fund baby who received a large enough inheritance to sloth around for a year. And now that I’m thinking of it, even if I did, this is not how I would spend my time, my money my….I digress. 

I should’ve stopped there. I should’ve known this book was not for me then. I’m a poor, single mother who fights the air every first of the month before walking into the leasing office to pay my rent, annoyed that they just demanded this same task of me 30 days before. 

But I kept going because the character was a bitch and even though we had differing backgrounds, I figured at some point she’d redeem herself. At some point, she’d learn a lesson. At some point, she’d hit a fork in the road and have to make a decision about her life – a decision that will somehow inherently force me to change my own. 

Isn’t that how books work? We see ourselves in the characters and then wahlah – an epiphany, a paradigm shift, a permanent change?  Something resonates. Something clicks. Life suddenly becomes clearer because of the experiences the author has lent. 

Nope. Not here in My Year of Rest & Relaxation.

And while the writing is tight and clear-cut, the subject is vapid and hazy, much like the main character who spends page after page ingesting pills, being cynical and mad unmotivated. 

Mmk. So I just reread that sentence and on second thought maybe me and this chick do have something in common, but here’s the difference – I actually have redeeming qualities. In fact, I have like eight and if you feed me I’ll show you two. 

This bitch though? This bitch has none. And she remained a bitch up until the last two pages which in my “unpublished writer” opinion were the best two pages within this hardcover. 

In short. The beginning is interesting. You wanna know about her past, how she came upon this idea and how her life would change as a result. By the middle, you find that those questions go largely unanswered and don’t care if this waif lives or dies. All you want is for it to end. And after eight tedious chapters, it eventually does. But even that feels rushed – like a Game of Thrones ending except in this case you were never really invested in the characters and storylines anyway, so couldn’t care less. 

My Year of Rest of Relaxation is a drug. Not in a sense that you can’t put it down, but more like it’ll make you sad, moody and to the right/wrong person suicidal if not equipped with the correct coping mechanisms.

It’s gotten alotta praise to which I can only attribute to –  the author has alotta friends — alotta friends that don’t mind writing Amazon reviews, alotta friends that work at Slate, Buzzfeed, HuffPost and, all the other millennial media markets that matter. And maybe even a grandma that works at the front desk of the Pulitzer Prize office? As I hear this god-awful story was at one time a contender for the prestigious award.

My recommendation? If you, yourself are ever granted the luxury of a year of rest and relaxation, go ahead – read this book. You have nothing else to do. (Shrug) Why not?

But if you, like most Americans got shit-to-do – good & important shit like, picking your nose, for instance, do that. 

Addendum: I wrote this review in the summer of 2019 when the idea that anyone would ever be granted a year of rest and relaxation was preposterous.

Haven’t thought about it much since then. Now, we’re nearly two months into quarantine and it crosses my mind once a week.

As a reader, I wonder if this is what the main character wanted all along – to live in a semi-isolated world that had finally slowed down to her pace. If so. Touche Moshfegh, touche.

As an “aspiring writer”, I wonder if I can pen a book so timely that it not only intrigues new readers , but forces old ones to revisit. If so, Touche Moshfegh, touche.

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