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?
I received an ARC of My Year of Rest and Relaxation about a month ago, but I didn’t pick it up until last week to actually start reading it. Wow. This book did not disappoint. It hit all of the things that I look for in a great and engaging literary fiction novel. The voice of the author, the cadence of the unnamed narrator and the story are all Ottessa goodness.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation does not have much of a plot. It’s pretty much driven by the arrogant, beautiful unnamed narrator we meet on page one. She is so over life, so over the world, that she turns to extreme sedatives to hibernate through the year. She doesn’t care about her friend(s) or her life, all she does is watch VHS tapes and smoke cigarettes and pop pills.
“I was growing less and less attached to life. If I kept going, I thought, I’d dissappear completely, then reappear in some new form. This was my hope. This was the dream.”
Our nameless narrator reminds me of a younger, more inexperienced Patrick Bateman. There aren’t ever any twist or turns, but Ottessa does an amazing job of keeping the reader engaged throughout the entire novel.
So what makes this piece of literary fiction worth the read if the main character is so unlikeable and self-absorbed? I think that it’s the fact that our main character is dealing with depression, an issue a lot of us can relate to. Depression doesn’t discriminate. It hunts the rich and the poor, the confident and the meek.
This dark humor won’t be for everyone, but it was for me, and I loved it.