Or, in Martha’s case, my life of rest and relaxation🐶
Who hasn’t daydreamed about sleeping a day, or maybe even a week, or even a season away (#hibernation )?
The unnamed narrator in Moshfegh’s completely consuming and quickly consumable novel skips out on most of an entire year. This is made possible with the aid of a myriad of real and imagined drugs and one of the most kooky, irresponsible and memorable psychiatrists in fiction. The reasons for this extremely unlikable protagonist (antagonist may be a more appropriate description) to escape into sleep stem from a stew of misery: an awful sort-of boyfriend, job discontent, the deaths of her parents, and a lack of any meaningful relationships. And perhaps the fact that she is just sick of herself. Not that the narrator articulates any of this. Moshfegh shows us her life, and we the readers figure it out.
This book is filled with not very nice people. The narrator treats her best (only?) friend terribly, but the friend is not lovable herself. I don’t think there is one happy relationship in the book. And yet Moshfegh made me feel for this spoiled, cruel, damaged narrator. How did she do it? Part of the compassion she generates for this character comes from her back story, especially her relationships with her parents. But I honestly can’t put my finger on the authorial wizardry that let me feel more than disdain for the narrator. Moshfegh has skills.
I give this novel 4⭐️. That said, it’s not a book I would recommend to most readers. The friend who put it into my hands referred to it as raunchy. It is. Moshfegh doesn’t hold back when it comes to detailing the grosser side of life. I don’t believe the book would have the impact that it does otherwise. Also, at least half a star is earned for me by the setting. I lived in NYC at the same time the book is set, just before 9-11 (at which point the story ends). Although I lived in a different neighborhood than the setting (the narrator rarely strays more than a few blocks from her Upper East Side apartment), I felt transported back to that time in my life. That magical feeling definitely impacted my reading experience