My Year of Rest and Relaxation (Moshfegh) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
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, [which] …have serio-comic names like Valdignore and Prognosticrone and Maxiphenphen and Silencior.… 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.
Dwight Garner - New York Times

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

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.

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

[A] strange, exhilarating triumph.… Moshfegh writes with a singular wit and clarity that, on its own, would be more than enough.…. 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

Darkly hilarious.… [Moshfegh’s] the kind of provocateur who makes you laugh out loud while drawing blood.

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

[C]aptivating and disquieting.… Though the novel drags a bit in the middle… ,it showcases Moshfegh's …mix of provocation…. Following the narrator's dire trajectory is challenging but… fascinating, likely to incite strong reactions and… discussion among readers.
Publishers Weekly

Interest in the narrator's long-lasting sleep trial may diminish before the novel ends…, but this work is not nearly as dark[ as her previous Eileen], though it's certainly as provocative and even occasionally funny. —Faye Chadwell, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis
Library Journal

(Starred review) Moshfegh concocts [her haze] with delirious clarity…. Readers might have trouble “getting” her, but there is one thing they’ll know that she doesn’t, given the time and place. Propulsive, both disturbing and funny, and smart as hell. — Annie Bostrom

(Starred review) Checking out of society the way the narrator does isn't advisable, but there's still a peculiar kind of uplift to the story…. A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn't afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.
Kirkus Reviews

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