4 out of 5 stars
During her final year at Columbia University, where she majored in art history, our unnamed protagonist lost both her parents. The inheritance that they left her means that she is financially stable, but she is utterly emotionally exhausted. She is in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and struggles to hold a job down for any length of time. She is not treated particularly nicely by her boyfriend and has a best friend who she has a difficult relationship with. To try and fill the enormous hole in her life she turns to a psychiatrist, Dr Tuttle to help. This doctor is hoping to help her with her insomnia and is more than happy to keep prescribing all manner of stronger and stronger sleeping and anti-anxiety medications. Having been fired from her latest job in a gallery she decides to ramp up the drugs and see if she can spend the next year mostly sleeping in her apartment.
Moshfegh has made this compelling read from what seems on the face of it a hollow premise of someone spending a year in a drug-filled sleep. Even though the two characters are not particularly likeable, I did feel that I had to admire the tenacity of the main character as she pursues the desire to alienate herself from the world rather than face the reality of her parent’s deaths and the swirl of modern life. Her friend, Reva, is as infuriating as she is funny, and she injects a necessary spark of humour into the plot. I liked this and I can’t really say why, but I think it is the writing that lifts this to a black comedic tragedy.