My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Expected publication July 10, 2018

Copy provided by publisher in advance in exchange for an honest review.

This book was genuinely confusing to me. One second it was making me feel one way, and the next another, to the point that I wasn’t sure if I loved it or if I hated it. I think that this is the beauty of this book as it lands in the midst of our socio-economically imbalanced society. You can resent the fact that this woman has the freedom to explore sleep as a valid therapy option while still feeling sympathy for what is obviously a very deep depression that she is struggling with after the deaths of her parents.

She decides to hibernate for a year in an attempt to reset her brain and have a new, emotional approach to her reality. She finds a “therapist” (finger quotes intended) in the yellow pages who is 100% a quack and is willing to help her jump through the insurance hoops to prescribe her every combination of sleep drugs under the sun. The first six months are full of adjustment to the medications – sleep-walking, sleep-talking, sleep-shopping – and she tries to put the pieces together after her blackout events while dealing with an abusive ex, a flighty “best friend,” and managing the resources that her parents have left to her.

About halfway through her year she realizes that she can’t be fully rested and restored if she hangs onto anything from her old life. She partners with an artist she was connected with in her old job and apparently connected with during a sleepwalking episode, to cleanse her space, lock her in, and let the true transformation begin.

This entire concept was so dangerous. The combinations of medications she is allowed to take by a person that so obviously does not have her best interests at heart as a member of the therapy profession. Her only close friend, Reva, is so selfish and self-deprecating herself that you wonder if she is able to keep an eye out for our unnamed narrator. The amount of money that she (the narrator) seems to have at her disposal is constantly the deus ex machina that allows her to continue forward.

As I was reading I did branch out to read some reviews to see how others reacted to this novel. Some said it was an interesting theory that the brain could be reset through extended hibernation and how it might be used in a safer environment with proper nutrition and monitored vitals. Others asked why we should feel bad for someone so rich that their problems are solved by drugs and money. One reviewer said that we should feel compassion for the rich, because so often the riches that we envy them for are the very things that prevent them from learning to struggle and survive, so they lack a very important set of skills that other members of society are forced to curate over time.

I agree with all these takes, although I do not feel as much empathy towards the wealthy as some reviewers seemed ready to have. What was so compelling to me about this book was the familiarity of the depression and the need to sleep. I love sleeping and being alone. I was able to ignore this woman’s wealth enough to live vicariously through her hibernation, especially the times when it really worked for her.

This seems as though it would be a very divisive book, one that would make for a good book group read. How do we give credence to all cases of mental illness while still understanding the real privilege at play in this tale? How can we be empathetic and disdainful at the same time? I love that this book presented me with this challenge. You should let it present it to you as well. Go get you some.

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