I can’t quite imagine how Ottessa pitched this novel to her agent. The main character goes unnamed and the story follows her efforts to sleep for a full year. How? Through pills, pills, and more pills. She should have asked my brother. He can take up to twenty-five Valium and remain somewhat awake. We’ve even played Mario Kart together. Drug driving. Don’t do it. Anyway, what starts off as an odd quest to remain asleep soon becomes something achievable thanks to the world’s most useless psychiatrist. In time, the main character finds herself spending as little time awake as possible, which complicates her life even further. Her annoying best friend keeps turning up at the door, unwanted, unwelcome, just…there, being irritating. We all know someone like Reva, that passive-aggressive pain in the arse whose comments usually come with layers of exhausting subtext. The book also takes us into the narrator’s life, how she became determined to have a year of rest and relaxation. We hear of her love for Whoopi Goldberg. We meet Trevor, her horrible boyfriend, a man who keeps running off with older women. She talks about the emotionally stunted parents, in particular, the mother whom the narrator only felt close to when they were both asleep.
Believe it or not, My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a comedy. Dark, biting, but still a comedy. It was released in America last year, so it took me a while to find it here in Scotland. I have piles (not the sort you need cream for) of books and it took a while, but I’m so glad I found this strange little novel. If you haven’t read it, you must. It might not be as ‘book group friendly’ as Ottessa’s previous novel Eileen, but it has a lot to offer.