Created by Kolom Remaja Summer Bootcamp Participant
Author: Jemima Panjaitan
Illustration: Bima Oktavian
Feeling the soft linen on my skin, seeing the light cast through the window, and reminiscing about the dream that had been stopped abruptly while feeling the tiredness soaring on my entire body. How does one rest and relax for a year long?
I stumbled upon Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation in late 2020.
This book–with its pretty, quirky and eye-catching cover, I immediately feel like I need to read it. This book truly shows you what a disaster woman is.
On the surface, it seems ridiculous. But My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a wild ride. Our unnamed young, blonde, rich, and not-a-typical Upper East Side-r narrator invites us all to her idea of ‘rest and relaxation’ by falsifying her mental conditions to a shady psychiatrist and popping sleeping pills the entire year after dealing with depression, trauma and misfortune all through her life. Her character develops through exhibiting aspects of self-destructive and ill-will tendencies.
Among all the hate and dislike towards the narrator and the plot itself, I found pleasure in loving this book. Taking place in pre-9/11 New York, this book is weirdly relatable and still relevant until now, “I did crave attention, but I refused to humiliate myself by asking for it.” Moshfegh brought this character to life by making her as transparent, as repulsive, as disgusting as possible. Moshfegh wants the reader to understand that there’s something deeper in the narrator’s repulsive ways of being.
I see our narrator trying to get rid of her internalized grief of her dysfunctional family and the house she was in, “I wanted to hold onto the house the way you’d hold onto a love letter.” This indicates that the narrator, once, has hope and she is not only the embodiment of Infermiterol. “It was proof that I had not always been completely alone in the world.” Yet, dating back to when her parents were still alive, she did not feel their presence, “But I think I was also holding on to the loss, to the emptiness of the house itself, as though to affirm that it was better to be alone than to be stuck with people who were supposed to love you, yet couldn’t.” I truly, madly, deeply understand where she’s coming from. What Moshfegh wants from the reader is–to understand that although the narrator seems unlikeable and annoying, it is her own way to cope with grief and trauma and to be honest, I do think that she is not completely unlikeable. She has hopes and maybe she has a little bit of love for the people around her. Days, weeks, and months have passed since the last time I read this book–and I still sympathize with her.