Author: Ottessa Moshfegh Series: Standalone Genre: Fiction Release Date: July 10, 2018 Book Length: 304 pages Publisher: Penguin Books Review: 4/5
This book is about an unnamed narrator in her late twenties whose parents emotionally neglected her for her entire life before both passing away within less than a year of each other back when she was in college. Despite winning the genetic lottery as a thin, blonde, beautiful, privileged girl living in New York City, she feels a void in her life which she believes only a year of sleep can fill. Thanks to the inheritance from her parents which allows her to afford to hibernate away from real life and responsibilities, she sets out on a quest for rebirth through a year of rest and relaxation.
I went into this wondering how on earth it would entertain me, considering all the main character wants to do is sleep, but I was pleasantly surprised. The Jane Doe of this novel finds a psychiatrist, Dr. Tuttle, whose entire character is essentially a parody of the practice, to prescribe her a bunch of different medications that will help her sleep most of her days away. Despite combinations of the initial drugs working to help induce sleep, Dr. Tuttle prescribes her a dangerous number of strong drugs after each visit – playing up her symptoms in order to be prescribed stronger and stronger things. It was actually quite scary how easily convinced Dr. Tuttle could be to hand over all of her prescriptions. Another fascinating relationship was one between the narrator and her only friend – her ‘best friend,’ Reva. Their friendship is extremely surface-level, and she continuously has thoughts despising her, yet they oddly both provide a sort of comfort and support system that neither one is able to get from any other.
From the onset, even though she seemed insistent that her parents’ deaths did not really affect her all that much, considering they were never close, you could tell as the reader that more than anything, this girl just wanted the affection that she lacked all her life. It was sad at times to read about her getting through life by going through the motions, and getting caught up in an on-again-off-again relationship with Trevor, a much older man who was very toxic for her.
The ending left me feeling ambivalent – it wasn’t entirely happy, and it wasn’t entirely sad. But, this book surprised me in a good way, and on that basis alone, I would recommend it.
Sleep felt productive. Something was getting sorted out. I knew in my heart—this was, perhaps, the only thing my heart knew back then—that when I’d slept enough, I’d be okay. I’d be renewed, reborn. I would be a whole new person, every one of my cells regenerated enough times that the old cells were just distant, foggy memories. My past life would be but a dream, and I could start over without regrets, bolstered by the bliss and serenity that I would have accumulated in my year of rest and relaxation.