I fell in love last week, and I want you to meet her.
You know how people say, don’t judge a book by its cover? I totally judge all books by their covers; when I pop into my local public library (named, btw, one of the World’s Greatest Places 2019 by Time Magazine, wa-hoo) to pick up my 100 holds on whatever topic I’m obsessively researching at the moment, I always look at the “Staff Picks” section (librarians rule) and I usually grab a book or two… based purely on the cover.
This was the cover that grabbed my eye, because, Empire Line dress and um, boobs, because I’m shallow and ovulating:
So you might already know about Ottessa Moshfegh because her first novel, Eileen, won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and was a fiction finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. But I didn’t, and My Year of Rest and Relaxation was my introduction to Moshfegh, and omg. People.
I hate writing book reviews, because it’s impossible to write a good one without spoilers. Mostly I just tell people, “This book changed my life, READ IT SO WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT!”
Ok, but this is what the book is about, according to the publishers:
“One of the most compelling protagonists modern fiction has offered in years: a loopy, quietly furious pillhead whose Ambien ramblings and Xanaxed b*tcheries somehow wend their way through sad and funny and strange toward something genuinely profound.”
— Entertainment Weekly
From one of our boldest, most celebrated new literary voices, a novel about a young woman’s efforts to duck the ills of the world by embarking on an extended hibernation with the help of one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature and the battery of medicines she prescribes.
Our narrator should be happy, shouldn’t she? She’s young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, 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 dark and vacuous hole in her heart, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend, Reva. 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 question. Through the story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs designed to heal our heroine from her alienation from this world, Moshfegh shows us how reasonable, even necessary, alienation can be. Both tender and blackly funny, merciless and compassionate, it is a showcase for the gifts of one of our major writers working at the height of her powers.
Named a Best Book of the Year by: The Washington Post, Time, NPR, Amazon,Vice, Bustle, The New York Times, The Guardian, Kirkus Reviews, Entertainment Weekly, The AV Club, & Audible
This really doesn’t tell you what the book is about. How perfect the writing. How beautiful the words—how twisted the story, the life, the heart, the thinking.
If, like me, you obsessively research people you fall in love with—or obsessively research authors before you fall in love with them and read their books, you can get to know Moshfegh a little through these pieces:
- Ariel Levy of the New Yorker on “Ottessa Moshfegh’s Otherworldly Fiction” (July 2, 2018)
- A Long Reads Interview: https://longreads.com/2018/07/05/a-person-alone-leaning-out-with-ottessa-moshfegh/
- And, of course, a wiki:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottessa_Moshfegh
In the meantime, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to spending some quality time with my new lover. Yes, yes, Ottessa. I’m coming I’m coming…