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Entertainment Weekly’s #1 Book of 2018
A New York Times Notable Book and Times Critics' Top Books of 2018
The New York Times bestseller.
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
About the Author
Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England. Her first book, McGlue, a novella, won the Fence Modern Prize in Prose and the Believer Book Award. She is also the author of the short story collection Homesick for Another World. Her stories have been published in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, and Granta, and have earned her a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award, the Plimpton Discovery Prize, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Eileen, her first novel, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction; My Year of Rest and Relaxation, her second novel, was a New York Times bestseller.
“Darkly comic and ultimately profound new novel. . . Moshfegh’s extraordinary prose soars as it captures her character’s re-engagement.” —New York Times Book Review
“The bravado in Moshfegh’s comprehensive darkness makes her novels both very funny and weirdly exhilarating . . . As in Eileen, Moshfegh excels here at setting up an immediately intriguing character and situation, then amplifying the freakishness to the point that some rupture feels inevitable. Her confidence never flags; hers are the novels of a writer invigoratingly immune to uncertainty and self-doubt.” —Slate
“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
“It’s another acerbic character study from an author making a career out of bringing absurdly unlikable people to life. No one can discomfit a reader quite like her.” — AV Club
“Moshfegh is the novelist for me right now; there’s such freedom and puckishness in her prose, and grandmaster technical wizardry, too.” —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
“Ottessa Moshfegh is easily the most interesting contemporary American writer on the subject of being alive when being alive feels terrible. She has a freaky and pure way of accessing existential alienation, as if her mind were tapped directly into the sap of some gnarled, secret tree . . . Watching Moshfegh turn her withering attention to the gleaming absurdities of pre-9/11 New York City, an environment where everyone except the narrator seems beset with delusional optimism, horrifically carefree, feels like eating bright, slick candy—candy that might also poison you.” —The New Yorker
“My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a strange, exhilarating triumph . . . Moshfegh writes with a singular wit and clarity that, on its own, would be more than enough. (Her 2015 debut, Eileen, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and Rest has already been optioned for film by Australian actress Margot Robbie). But the cumulative power of her narrative—and the sharp turn she takes in its last 30 pages—becomes nothing less than a revelation: sad, funny, astonishing, and unforgettable.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Ingenious, darkly comedic . . . . The novel speeds to the best last page of any book I’ve likely ever read . . . My Year of Rest and Relaxation could easily swing into a memory-bending thriller, or a dark odyssey into the dangers of the pharmaceutical industry — but instead Moshfegh anchors it to her premise of a girl who’s simply, truly, lost — a perfect portrait of someone who desperately wants to be asleep, in order to finally feel awake." — Vice
“This book isn’t just buzzy and maniacally entertaining—it’s a mean-spirited, tenderhearted masterpiece.” —New York Post
“’My Year of Rest and Relaxation’ is the most poignant, vulnerable, mature, and—dare I say it?—sincere work that its gifted author has yet produced.” —Boston Globe
“In flat, deadpan, unembellished prose recalling the cadences of Joan Didion and the clear-eyed candor of Mary Gaitskill, Moshfegh portrays the vacuous interior life (she has virtually no exterior life) of a narcissistic personality simultaneously self-loathing and self-displaying . . . My Year of Rest and Relaxation is laced with blackly comic interludes. Though passive to the point of virtual catatonia, the narrator can’t avoid interacting with a very few other people who include a “lover” named Trevor of such astounding sexist oafishness he might have stepped out of one of the more fatuous episodes of Sex and the City: “I interpreted Trevor’s sadism as a satire of actual sadism.” Even funnier than Trevor is a radiantly nutty therapist named Tuttle who prescribes drugs extravagantly, promiscuously, and unquestioningly, prattling away in a unique psychobabble . . . Yet My Year of Rest and Relaxation is most convincing as an urbane dark comedy, sharp-eyed satire leavened by passages of morbid sobriety, as in a perverse fusion of Sex and the City and Requiem for a Dream.” — New York Review of Books
“A darkly comic yet penetrating story about pain, destruction, and human connection . . . Moshfegh's piercing prose strips away any of the romanticism of this kind of hibernation, and the further readers (or at least, this reader) go down the young woman's determined path to let go, the tighter they will feel themselves holding onto their own realities and, more specifically, everyone they love in it.” —Bustle
“Rest And Relaxation' Is As Sharp As Its Heroine Is Bleary . . . bizarrely fascinating . . . Moshfegh knows how to spin perversity and provocation into fascination, and bleakness into surprising tenderness.” —NPR
“One of the pleasures of reading Ottessa Moshfegh is that – unusually, these days – she rarely writes in the present tense. Instead, the sense of immediacy, the sense of being inside a character, the sense of things happening and having psychic value, both to the writer and her reader, is provided by the structure and content of her sentences. Matter of fact, full of bravado yet always wryly observational, these stack up steadily to construct the brisk interior landscape of her third novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation . . . One of the other pleasures of reading Moshfegh is her relentless savagery. All this is delivered as comic – it is comic – but it’s not exactly funny, though of course we laugh.” —Guardian
“Because this is a novel by the superabundantly talented Moshfegh — she’s an American writer of Croatian and Iranian descent with a name like that of an avant-garde London restaurant — we know in advance that it will be cool, strange, aloof and disciplined. The sentences will be snipped as if the writer has an extra row of teeth . . . Moshfegh is an inspired literary witch doctor. She invents many of the drugs her heroine ingests, the way Don DeLillo invented Dylar, to placate the fear of death, in ‘White Noise.’ These have serio-comic names like Valdignore and Prognosticrone and Maxiphenphen and Silencior. There was a joke at Rolling Stone magazine that if the drugs ran out at a party, one could find Hunter S. Thompson and suck on him. Depressives without prescriptions could lick Moshfegh’s heroine’s elbow . . . If she’s on downers, the prose in “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” is mostly on uppers. Like its narrator, this is a remorseless little machine. Moshfegh’s sentences are piercing and vixenish, each one a kind of orphan. She plays interestingly with substance and illusion, with dread and solace on the installment plan. This book builds subtly toward the events of Sept. 11 . . . Moshfegh writes with so much misanthropic aplomb, however, that she is always a deep pleasure to read. She has a sleepless eye and dispenses observations as if from a toxic eyedropper . . . Though this novel is set nearly 20 years ago, it feels current. The thought of sleeping through this particular moment in the world’s history has appeal.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Darkly hilarious . . . [Moshfegh’s] the kind of provocateur who makes you laugh out loud while drawing blood.” —Vogue
“You’ll emerge from this darkly hilarious novel not necessarily rested or relaxed but more finely attuned to how delicately fraught the human condition can be.” —Marie Claire
“Electrifying. . . Moshfegh’s narrator’s final gesture, transforming herself into a piece of half-living art, echoes the odd and combative passivity of Herman Melville’s Bartleby, a scrivener who suddenly, inexplicably, refuses to perform his duties. . . . In a country that celebrates doers, such a preference is grotesque, an inversion of the American ideal of prospering through hard work. But it also serves as a reminder that there is something to life outside the economic exchange of time for money and money for goods, even if that unnamed thing is obscure and perplexing and just a bit monstrous--particularly as a woman. Literature may not have the all the answers, but it can show us the power and allure of saying no.” —Vanity Fair
“I was cringing during every moment of Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, and yet I could not put the book down . . . Moshfegh’s protagonist is brutally dreary, and the brutality of her dreariness is often very funny, but the book is really quite serious . . . The book seems to anchor itself to “real” experiences of pain and to validate itself by their relevance . . . But it is mostly, almost by juxtaposition, about the realness of a more subtle and very private expression of pain, no matter the cause, no matter how seemingly trivial. That’s what kept me reading even as my cringing muscles grew sore: feeling in my screwed-up face, barked laughs, and watery eyes the translation of that private kind of pain into something I could share.” —Claire Benoit, The Paris Review
“There’s a casually intimidating power to Moshfegh’s writing – the deadpan frankness and softly cutting sentences – that makes any comparison feel not quite right.” – Anne Diebel, London Review of Books
“Moshfegh’s ear remains as merciless as ever. Like a latter-day Flaubert, she delights in vanity and mediocrity, and in the absurdist heights both can reach whenever the occasion calls for a few sincere words.” —Harper’s Magazine
“When we are recommended a book we usually ask, ‘What is it about?’ But with Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, we ask, ‘What isn’t it about?’ This novel takes on self-hatred, feminism, sexuality, mental health, family, and big pharma—AND it’s really f*cking funny. I don’t even want to tell you too much because I went in blind, loving Ottessa from her novel Eileen (also worth a read) and found myself hooting and hollering, vibing on a very different tip than her other work put me on. I’m so impressed that just one lady has written all these very special different things. Also, this book cover will have you kissing millennial pink goodbye and walking over to hot pink’s corner. About time!” —Lena Dunham
“Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator's predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. . . . A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn't afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.” — Kirkus, starred review