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Reader’s Report: ‘My Year of Rest and Relaxation’

Hi there! My name is Ani and this is Reader’s Report, where I review a book that I’ve read recently and explain exactly how I feel about it to you lovely people.

This week’s book is “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” by Otessa Moshfegh and before you ask, yes it’s been an insane past few weeks and that might be why the most recent book reviews have been about women losing their minds. What’s that quote about art imitating life? Yeah whatever, you know the one. 

I read this book directly after “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath, which if you don’t know, is also conveniently about a girl who gets put into a mental institution because she has depression and god forbid women feel anything in the 1900s. There’s more to it, but I’m telling you this because I confuse these two books a lot. So if you end up reading “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” or have read it already, and you think to yourself while reading this article, “damn I don’t remember this happening,” that’s because you probably haven’t and I’m confusing it with “The Bell Jar.” Anyway, let’s move on.

“My Year of Rest and Relaxation” takes place in the early 2000s. A girl, unnamed throughout the entire book, narrates her experience as an orphan living in the Upper East Side. And no, I’m not describing the plot of Annie, thank you very much. This girl essentially has the dream life. She’s living in NYC, graduated from an Ivy League school and doesn’t have to pay for a thing because her parents left a huge inheritance for her. And yet, she feels awful.

I’m not going to lie, I found it really really difficult to sympathize with this character. A part of me knows that that was the point, but another part of me is still annoyed. Every situation that she experiences in this book could have been solved with a little social skills. Like it’s not a crime to fake a smile once in a while and no, you don’t have to quit your job after a particularly bad day. But in order to finish this review, I have to look past that, so forgive me if I sound miserable. 

After a good 100 pages of exposition, you start to follow this girl’s understanding. While normally you read about these kinds of characters and think, “wow, she has severe depression”, Moshfegh has a way of writing this girl in a way that makes you think, “well, she has a point” when she realistically, most definitely, doesn’t. I really like this kind of writing because after reading the whole thing, you think that this was a really well thought out character that was super relatable and then you come back to the book a couple hours later and you realize how dumb she sounds. 

For reference, one half of the book is her having a drug addiction. And while reading it, I thought that she definitely has a problem, but it didn’t seem that big of a deal because you know what, she’s trying her best. I went back to the book three hours later and let me tell you, this girl was not trying her best. I don’t know what possessed me to think that taking the correct dosage of sleeping pills to keep you in a self-induced coma for a year was the right decision, but apparently this author is really good at what she does, because it worked.

The other part that really made me question if I liked this book was me attempting to explain what it was about to other people. My friends would ask me if I liked it because they’d seen it on TikTok and what-not, and I honestly had the hardest time trying to find reasons why they should read it. It’s not a feel-good read. It’s not even a self-reflective piece. The only reasoning behind reading it is wanting to make you feel better about your life. Because no matter how many midterms you have, at least you’re not an Upper East Side heiress with dead parents, a Columbia degree and a sleeping-pill problem.

So, do I think you should read it? Let’s just say, I don’t think you shouldn’t! It’s a good in-between book, when you don’t quite want to make a commitment to a four book series but you need to read something in order to keep up your mysterious aura in some coffee shop in Cambridge. Although if I’m the one who sees you reading it, I’ll be asking if everything is okay at home.

Well anyway, I’ll see you next time.

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