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  • Writer's picturePaige Bannister

The Author Behind My Year of Rest and Relaxation

For those drawn to books about women with a few screws loose, I’m sure we’ve all heard of the newly famous novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation. However, unless you’ve done some research, there hasn’t been significant mention of the author, Ottessa Moshfegh, or her other works. So who is she? Ottessa Moshfegh is one of the pillars of newer psychology fiction. Growing up, Moshfegh attended Commonsworth School in Boston, Massachusetts, and once she graduated, she went to Barnard College and got a Bachelor of the arts. Later in life, she went to Brown University, earning herself a Master of Fine Arts degree in Literary Arts.

Her initial novel, Eileen, published in August 2015, is written from the point of view of an older Eileen reflecting on her younger self in the days leading up to Christmas when everything changed. She was hungry for change and anything new to help her mentally escape her horrible, pointless, and, worst of all, dull life of living with her delusional and verbally abusive father. This novel went on to get shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle award, Man Booker Prize, and win the PEN/Hemingway Award in Debut Fiction. Her succeeding work was a collection of short stories titled Homesick for Another World, published in January 2017. It entails stories about self-destructive characters who are each yearning for something in their lives. Her next novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, published in July of 2018, is possibly her most popular. It illustrates a selfish unnamed narrator, so unsatisfied in her life that she tries to self-medicate herself into a year of "rest". Death in Her Eyes, publisheded in 2020 is the paranoid fantasy of 72 year old Vesta, that spirals after she finds a note in the woods that reads "Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body." Surprisingly, the absence of a body is what causes the beginning of this building madness. Her latest novel, Lapvona, published last June shows the life of a motherless shepherd boy as he manages the disasters thrown his way in the medieval village of Lapvona, where the worst of humanity resides.

Clearly, Moshfegh writes tales of of unlovable characters, however, what's really interesting in her work is she takes these very clearly terrible characters she doesn't make you sympathize with them, she doesn't sugarcoat their actions, but in some way she's actually able to make you understand them. Her characters are hardly ever innocent, they're cruel and pathetic people who do cruel and pathetic things, but Moshfegh's character building is so skilled that they're never the same. According to The New Yorker, Moshfegh writes about "being alive when being alive feels terrible." It's absurd to believe that anyone hasn’t experienced that, which is what makes her books so appealing. Her work is perfect for people who love deep character analysis into the minds of characters who are hungry, yearning for something they themselves don’t even understand.

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