I Finally Read “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” and I’m Not Sure I *Got It*

Elizabeth Westphal
3 min readMar 10

After years of only reading non-fiction I decided to pick up a novel that was much discussed throughout the pandemic. I had heard such high praises of this book all over social media, but when I finished the book I was just left with a question: did I get that?

I hadn’t picked up a novel in years, though before that I was an avid fiction reader. I didn’t find the novel powerful, as many others had called it. While I’m being honest, it didn’t really make me think or feel much either.

I had this nagging feeling that the novel might be “over my head”, since it didn’t evoke anything in me.

Here’s What I Don’t Get:

  1. The ending (Spoilers ahead). Based on the timeline of the book and when the narrator is set to finish her “year”, the moment Reva mentions she is transferred to the Towers we know what’s going to happen. I can’t imagine this was meant to be a twist. So why then? Is there some hidden theme or symbolic meaning I totally missed?
  2. Cheap shock value. I think in the pursuit of being “raw”, the author filled the book with imagery of sh*t, vaginas, poor personal hygiene, rotting food, and garbage. All of which seemed to have no meaning or relevance.
  3. Repetition. Apart from like 30–40 pages, the entire book is the same. Drugs, sleep, memory loss, prescription fills, repeat. I get that this is the protagonists plan, and the intent of the author but the content was dry. I forced myself through it because I wanted to prove to myself I could get into fiction again. If I didn’t have this insecurity that I hadn’t read enough fiction lately, I would have just closed the book. Am I meant to find something in this repetition? Is there a deeper meaning somewhere that went over my head?
  4. A lot of quick, punchy quotes like “Studied grace is not grace” that are kind of... cringe-y? Here’s the thing though: these quotes are from the protagonists inner monologue, so are they meant to be deep wisdom? Or are they meant to be pseudo intellectualism and make us hate the protagonist more? What about this: ‘ “I wanted to be an artist, but I had no talent,” I told her. “Do you really need talent?” That might have been the smartest thing Reva ever said to me. “Yes,” I replied’. Is this meant to be deep, or some kind of ironic self awareness?

Here’s What I Didn’t Hate: