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Review: My Year of Rest and Relaxation

A book to both hate and love equally

By Zoe McGarrickPublished 2 years ago 3 min read

I loved this book from the first page. The voice, the unlikeable but addictive narrator, who takes you through the mundane and boring of her own life that could otherwise be interesting (I mean, she has the money). We meet vapid and uncaring people. We meet artists that only care to shock their audience (very Damien Hirst-esque in their art pieces). But mostly we meet someone who thinks they can fix their life after a year of sleep.

If you love books such as The Bell Jar, or The Catcher in the Rye, then this is the book for you. Although, as you'd expect from those comparisons, trigger warning for the following:

depression, substance abuse (alcohol/drugs), eating disorders, r*pe/sexual assault.

So if you're sensitive to those then be wary or stay away. The narrator talks about each and all with a deadpan apathy that can take you by shock. I found myself needing to reread certain sentences and scenes to make sure of what she had actually said.

The voice is consistent throughout the book, but the pace of the novel does change suddenly by the last chapter. Up until this point, Moshfegh delivers our addict in denial's banal life at a snail-pace. Character over action is definitely the defining feature of this novel, as mostly what happens is she takes pills to make her sleep, blacks out for days on end; wakes up to discover she has been doing things very un-her in that time.

Which, additionally, has been subject to many booklovers being uncomfortable at the level of detail the book goes into about the different types of medications taken throughout the narrative. It names all drugs, dosages and combinations taken, which many, and myself, have to consider the dangers of. Is this basically a guidebook for the suicidal? It could be detrimental to those already going through depression.

*spoilers ahead*

My thoughts while reading the book were that this was building to an ending to do with the blackouts she was having. But it doesn't. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to the truth of what happened on those countless days and nights she was out partying or buying porn but the author decided to take it a different way, I guess.

Not only does the book not give you what you want, waving those mysteries waved in our face only to keep any answers out of reach, but the ending changes the pace of the entire novel. Slowly we're given the first few months of the year-long slumber the protagonist ventures on. And then delivered the rest of it in less than 40 pages. Not only that, she seems to give up these drugs easily. When we witness her earlier go into a frenzy when her friend takes them off her.

She just starts her new life and she's fine all of a sudden. The depression, the apathy, the drug-addiction: all gone. So easy. Just like that. As someone with depression, I can't help but hate the ending for making it seem like something as complex as mental illness and trauma can be 'gotten over' so quickly.

It does beg the question of whether the book is a good representation of mental illness. Something to keep in mind is that we're not (or at least, I don't think we are) meant to like the main character. She's manipulative to name one trait. But this book can paint a portrait of mental illness in an bad light that's only redemption comes from the protagonists' ability to switch it off at the end of the novel (very unrealistic!).

I feel the ending would have been better had the author decided to have the main character be honest for once with her therapist or her friends, and explore the life she was living in the blackouts. Instead, she never addresses how she hurt her best friend, or how she kept lying to her therapist for a whole year. The ending was definitely rushed.

Despite this, I still think the book is worth a read. But it will leave you wondering what it was for, and what it was really all about when it takes you in that other direction. However, it's a trip worth taking.

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About the Creator

Zoe McGarrick

I am new writer, soon to be author, interested in writing articles all things literature, book reviews, book culture and my journey! Stick around to stay updated; follow me on Insta and TikTok @authorzoemcgarrick

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