From the author of Eileen, 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.
Because this is a novel by the superabundantly talented Moshfegh — she’s an American writer of Croatian and Iranian descent — 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 ... This is a strong book but one that doesn’t advance our sense of Moshfegh as a writer. Her sensibility, you feel, is like a jewel that has yet to find its most advantageous setting. One never quite feels anything is at stake ... 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.
[Moshfegh] is adept at crafting dark, compelling female characters who violate the rules of femininity ... It’s a sly refusal of the imperative to self-care, the opposite of leaning in ... Moshfegh’s protagonist is an unlikely revolutionary ... [My Year of Rest and Relaxation] serves as a reminder that there is something to life outside of 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 in a woman. Literature may not have all the answers, but it can show us the power and allure of saying 'No.'
[My Year of Rest and Relaxation] is not a complicated book, by which I mean it’s not intricately plotted or densely populated. The story, strictly speaking, never leaves the unnamed narrator’s fascinating, twisted, candid, perceptive mind ... It’s really difficult to discuss the extraordinary mechanics of My Year of Rest and Relaxation ... There’s a birth, a rebirth, yes, and it’s a substantial epiphany. But there’s loss too, because important things are lost in time when time is the enemy and obliviousness is the weapon.