My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Won’t Put You to Sleep!


Bella Mendez, Editor: Pop culture and Spotlight

Nowadays, books that are glorified by young adults have the same predictable plots that you see in the cheesy Netflix original movies. You either have the cute (but complicated) romance story, the tested friendship that gets revived, or the once unsolved mystery that gets miraculously solved. However, what about the books that show the tough aspects of life? Well, in Otessa Moshfegh’s book, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, you see a glimpse of these aspects when the unnamed protagonist goes on a controversial journey to sleep for a whole year by manipulating her psychiatrist into giving her more sleeping medication. With her unique plot and complex characters, readers feel a range of emotions as they wonder if this book will have a happy ending, which makes this book worth the read. 

To begin, the way Moshfegh wrote the protagonist in My Year of Rest and Relaxation is truly groundbreaking, and it did not put me to sleep! The idea around the protagonist is that some people may just be bad, and there may be no redemption for them. The protagonist proves this as certain situations in the book reveal her selfish characteristics. For instance, after the death of her best friend’s mother, the protagonist mentions how she would rather consider “ignoring her and turning back across the tracks to catch the next train into the city”. 

Since the beginning of the book, she makes fun of her best friend by saying that she was a “slave to vanity and status… it made it hard for me to respect her intelligence”. Yet, the author makes sure to include how bluntly hypocritical this character is as she degrades her best friend, Reva, for being concerned about her looks, but the protagonist constantly talks about how naturally pretty, smart,  and successful she is. Honestly, the way the author constructed this hypocrisy was brilliant as it keeps the audience wondering “will she ever change?”. 

To try to give the reader clarity on this question, Moshfegh adds a subtle contrast between the protagonist and Reva. While both characters are not perfect, the way they handle certain situations shows the audience that some people are capable of empathy. For instance, even though Reva was struggling with her own insecurities and the death of her mother, she still checks in on the protagonist. With this contrast, the author shows that everyone may have a one sided friendship once in their life. 

As for the plot, many may view it as repetitive considering it revolves around three main things: her therapy, her sleep, and the brief time she is awake. However, the way Moshfegh writes makes the reader unable to rest or relax! Throughout the book, you see how extreme the protagonist becomes. In her therapy sessions, the protagonist starts off by “copying her dreams in crazier-looking handwriting on a yellow legal pad, adding terrifying details…” (60), but she eventually goes as far as telling her therapist that she has been hallucinating terrifying scenarios to help her motive of sleeping for a year. Given, some aspects of the story felt somewhat out of place like when she describes her art gallery job, her parents, and her connection to the bodega across the street. However, these are all essential to understanding the protagonist’s emotions and how draining they can be. Some may even end up relating to her on some level or gain a new understanding for this complex character. In the end, the way Moshfegh writes this book steers away from any repetitiveness all while possibly connecting to her audience on a deeper level. 

In conclusion, the way Moshfegh constructs this book is refreshing. The way books are made nowadays have the same recycled content and characters. But in My Year of Rest and Relaxation,  the original plot line, complex character, and the emotional connection to the readers make this book addicting and so worth the read. Every young adult should consider reading this book as it has an emotional appeal that teaches lessons that they can hold onto for the rest of their life.