My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

Outstanding. This subversive and daring piece of work surprised me by its invention, rigor and depth. How could I be so compelled by a story that seemed so narrow? And so amused too? Moshfegh’s voice is exceptional, and distinctive, but whereas her first novel seemed to me heavyhanded, this book sees her developing and enriching her abilities. Recommended.
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This was a super quick read for me, which is probably the best thing I can say about it. It's not that I didn't "get" what Moshfegh was going for here; I'm aware that her writing at times verges on the weirdly absurd minutiae of life and that sometimes the pointlessness of it all is the point, but I just wasn't feeling this. It's all a little too Iowa writers workshop for me, if you get my drift - provocation for provocation's sake, "look how much DEPTH there is despite the surface being so shallow!" kind of pretentiousness. Generally speaking, not my bag.

The narrator was completely unlikable, which isn't the biggest dealbreaker - the problem here is that I couldn't even muster the energy to hate her. She was boring, selfish, banal, and I didn't give a damn about her tragic past or her fucked up present. I just wanted her to get on with it. The narrator had more money than sense, her unrest seemingly a result of, I dunno, never really having to work for much in her life and wanting to do something "edgy" like sleep through an entire year with every drug under the sun because life was just too much. It's the kind of privileged bullshit that makes me roll my eyes in real life, taken to the extreme. 

Because I don't want to be completely negative, Moshfegh's writing is engaging, and as I mentioned, so well-paced that I finished this in a couple of days. But sometimes that's not a good thing - it shows it didn't challenge me, I didn't linger on anything, there was no meaning behind it. Not everything has to be deep and meaningful, but if it's totally meaningless, what's the point?
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I kind of wish I had this idea, minus the psychiatric drugs. The narrator's droll personality is hilarious and I love all of her wry observations. This book is definitely not for everyone, but I will be recommending it to readers who enjoy literary satire.
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I was finally doing something that really mattered. Sleep felt productive. Something was getting sorted out. I knew in my heart—this was, perhaps, the only thing my heart knew back then—that when I’d slept enough, I’d be okay. I’d be renewed, reborn. I would be a whole new person, every one of my cells regenerated enough times that the old cells were just distant, foggy memories. My past life would be but a dream, and I could start over without regrets, bolstered by the bliss and serenity that I would have accumulated in my year of rest and relaxation.

Whew! I had a surprising reaction to this novel. Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation managed to catch me off guard and by surprise. Probably because – funny story – ironically, this book is about a character who does what I always say I’d like to do: have the ability to put my life on pause for just a few days to rest, to think, to recharge. Then press a magic button and the world resumes spinning, without me having lost a single second of my life. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Well, here’s that idea with a twist: Little Miss Nameless Protagonist here does this for an entire year (while strung out on a myriad of different high-level drugs, all while juggling her semi-unwanted friendship with her best friend and her feelings about the death of her parents and the reality of her shitty boyfriend – really, he’s not even that). Set in the year 2000, our narrator decides to hibernate through a year of her life in an attempt to be a new person on the other side of that time. So, with the help of a zany and negligible psychiatrist who’s first and only line of doctoring is to pull out her prescription pad, our narrator dives deeper and deeper into the world of prescription drugs—and the psychological effects of them—in her quest to sleep away a year of her life.

My Ambien, my Rozerem, my Ativan, my Xanax, my trazodone, my lithium. Seroquel, Lunesta. Valium. I laughed. I teared up. Finally, my heart slowed. My hands started trembling a little, or maybe they’d been trembling all along. “Thank God,” I said aloud…I counted out three lithium, two Ativan, five Ambien. That sounded like a nice mélange, a luxurious free fall into velvet blackness. And a couple of trazodone because trazodone weighed down the Ambien, so if I dreamt, I’d dream low to the ground. That would be stabilizing, I thought. And maybe one more Ativan. Ativan to me felt like fresh air. A cool breeze, slightly effervescent. This was good, I thought. A serious rest. My mouth watered. Good strong American sleep.

Jacques Louis David’s neoclassical painting has been used as the cover, a reference to our protagonist’s “culture,” of which she is so proud and self-important, and her Art History background in college and before she quit the workforce. It’s nice touch, offering layers of other meanings to this book. Within these pages you’ll find a slew of wholly unlikeable characters – well, unlikeable by the arbitrary standards we tend to think of as what makes a “nice” or “good” person. You won’t find those people here. Instead you’ll find the nameless narrator who knows she’s gorgeous and privileged and secretly loves the fact that her (bulimic, needy, whiny, having an intra-office affair with a married guy) best friend, Reva, is jealous of her. You’ll find the WASP mother of the nameless protagonist who can’t be bothered to mother but instead calls in the nanny and drinks herself to death in the end. The artiste who made his claim to fame by ejaculating on a blank canvas in various colors. And we shan’t forget the “boyfriend” who uses our protagonist for quick sexual trysts that work out to only his benefit and then shuns her for weeks or months until he’s ready for another one. She has become semi-dependent on him and this cycle of abuse, even as he hopes that it will one day stop and that he’ll choose her. Their relationship is twisted and not at all the storybook love affair you’re used to:

I called Trevor again. This time when he answered, I didn’t let him say a word. “If you’re not over here fucking me in the next forty-five minutes then you can call an ambulance because I’ll be here bleeding to death and I’m not gonna slit my wrists in the tub like a normal person. If you’re not here in forty-five minutes, I’m gonna slit my throat right here on the sofa. And in the meantime, I’m going to call my lawyer and tell him I’m leaving everything in the apartment to you, especially the sofa. So you can lean on Claudia or whoever when it comes time to deal with all that. She might know a good upholsterer.

I hear Moshfegh is a fan of writing about these sorts of characters – characters who need to a chaser or too before they’ll go down our throats smoothly. This was my first foray into her works, and I don’t mind that. In fact, that quality is what drew me deeper into this novel once I opened the first page. Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation doesn’t shy away from the murk and unpleasantness – really, downright offensiveness – inside of us all, that we’re all capable of. In fact, her characters here seem to revel in the way their ickiness makes them better than other people while simultaneously wallowing in it until it nearly drowns them. It’s a bold and scary line for an author to walk, and to see the characters on, but that’s what we love about writers who can pull it off. We all need that shiny mirror of our own spiny imperfections staring back at us from time to time, don’t we? My Year of Rest and Relaxation is dark and obnoxious, but I loved it. Because, isn’t life that way sometimes? I love characters with bite, maybe a pinch of cruelty in them –
But did I care? I didn’t think so. If Reva’s body was hanging by the neck behind the bath curtain, I might have just gone home.


--I appreciate the layers of characters who aren’t bow-tied in shiny pink ribbons of perfection, happy and grinning stupidly with their perfect teeth and empty heads. I like a character who is…shall I say, more like a real person, imperfections and all. Honestly, I felt like this book was WASPy done well – and I don’t think I’ve ever said that before. Even as she stood at the edge of reality, possibly even the precipice of her life, I was able to forget that her feeling of ennui with her privilege annoyed me. I wanted to reach out my hand to her, hoping she’d be okay:

I wondered if I might be dead, and I felt no sorrow, only worry over the afterlife, if it was going to be just like this, just as boring. If I’m dead, I thought, let this be the end. The silliness. At some point I got up to guzzle water from the tap in the kitchen. When I stood upright afterward, I started to go blind. The fluorescent lights were on overhead. The edges of my vision turned black. Like a cloud, the darkness came and rested in front of my eyes. I could move my eyes up and down, but the black cloud stayed fixed. Then it grew, widening. I buckled down to the kitchen floor and splayed out on the cold tile. I was going to sleep now, I hoped. I tried to surrender. But I would not sleep. My body refused. My heart shuddered. My breath caught. Maybe now is the moment, I thought: I could drop dead right now. Or now. Now. But my heart kept up its dull bang bang, thudding against my chest…


But this novel’s ending is what sealed the deal for me, culminating with 9/11 shortly after our protagonist wakes from her year of sleep. The towers come down, someone she knows dies, and maybe – just maybe – that last line of the novel shows that our protagonist has finally found her humanity. I highly recommend this book to readers who like their characters straight with no chaser, to readers who don't shy away from the some of the darker hues of humanity. If you're uncomfortable with that notion, definitely stay away! I was glued to this novel from start to finish, and that resonating ending easily solidified the strong 4 stars I’m offering up. ****
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This book was a challenging and at times very uncomfortable read, but it is a brilliant work of fiction and written with an eye for keen character insights and the most cutting truths. We should find the protagonist, who remains unnamed, unpleasant and totally unbearable, but she's written with such vulnerability and care that I found it impossible to actively dislike her. I wouldn't exactly call her *likable* either, but she is like an open wound for most of the book, delicate and trying desperately to heal herself despite the presence of some astoundingly bad influences in her life. I sometimes had to take breaks from reading this because the protagonist's therapist, in particular, made me so uncomfortable with how bad she is at her job, but I absolutely adored how deftly the author wrote the friendship between the protagonist and Reva, her best friend. It's fraught and sometimes ugly and very, very complex, but it revealed itself to be something of a secret heart of the book second to the narrator's relationship with herself. I highly recommend this title and am glad it's been getting such positive attention. Definitely a must-read.
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I am not quite sure why this weird little book found its way into my heart but gosh did it ever. Maybe because I would LOVE a year of rest and relaxation and the idea of sleeping all day, watching movies and dressing a slob seems so great. Of course it's not - this novel really shows that - but still such a fun/weird little romp. Kind of reminds me of Sweet Bitter, if that girl had flown off the deep end.
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Eileen was the most startling and brilliant book I read in 2017, so I had been anxiously awaiting the release of My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Ottessa, as bold and subversive as ever, did not disappoint!

Our nameless narrator is a pretty, rich, Columbia grad that takes a year to (hopefully) seal the black hole in her heart in life by doing her favorite activity - sleeping. With the help of a questionable psychiatrist, she loads herself up with any combination of drugs she can come up with. The next year is spent drifting in and out of hibernation, emerging for coffee, bodega coffee, and appointments (drug deals) with her psychiatrist.

Only Ottessa Moshfegh could write a book about a year of sleep and make it compelling. She is able to enter the vast and ugly internal life of an individual within a capitalist and materialistic world. Our narrator's existential dead, apathy, and dissatisfaction seeped into my own soul and made me feel recognized. Moshfegh explores an area of womanhood that female authors are discouraged from entering - the apathetic, ugly, selfish, listless, and dirty. She somehow can induce simultaneous discomfort and elation. I hate her characters and I love them. I see myself and I see what I never want to be, I see what I hate and I see what I love. Those last few sentences are the kind of flowery garbage our narrator's friend Reva would spout (much to our narrator's dismay) but it's truly how I feel. 

Thank you to Netgalley for the review copy!
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A witty narrator, doing wildly unexpected things made for an interesting read -- at first. As the book went on, the narration spiraled into endless lists of medications and dosages that frankly just made me mad! I understand that the author intended to make me FEEL something, so I admit that the book was successful in that. However, I can't recommend this book for leisure reading, as I found it very frustrating and hard to finish.
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"It was lunacy, this idea, that I could sleep myself into a new life. Preposterous. But there I was, approaching the depths of my journey."

My Year of Rest and Relaxation is brutal, transcendent, grimly comic, and sublime. The more I think about it, the more I'm certain it shifted something in me. The journey that takes place feels somberly familiar. The longing, the existential meltdowns, the feeling like giving up--it's all too real. Moshfegh does an excellent job at making you truly feel the words she's writing and atmosphere she's creating, especially as you delve deeper and deeper into this story. I can confidently say that I won't ever forget the experience of reading this book, the last 40 or so pages of it, or that harrowing last line.

This book is about a nameless beautiful, young, rich, and seemingly perfect privileged white woman that's going through an ever-increasing existential crisis. She is the kind of person that realizes that all of these things are shallow and ultimately mean nothing. She is an orphan to parents that never actually cared for her, and the ex-girlfriend of a guy who showed her time and time again that he doesn't value her or her worth, and the best friend of Reva, who falls for the facade of beauty and wealth and is fragile and needy. The nameless protagonist herself is sadistic and apathetic. She is tired. With her plunging deeper into depression, she decides to go into a year-long self-induced hibernation at the hands of her clueless, foolhardy psychiatrist who is all too eager to prescribe anything under the sun. The goal is to come out of this hibernation anew. She desires a total metamorphosis of the self.

"I felt myself float up and away, higher and higher into the ether until my body was just an anecdote, a symbol, a portrait hanging in another world."

All of this plays out in a stream-of-consciousness style prose and it's very effective, all the while going back and forth from the present and small moments of her life in the past that have pushed her to this point of reckoning. I truly respect Moshfegh's approach here. It shows that sometimes we find meaning in unlikely places. It's a scathing response to our trivial, self-obsessed culture and how we navigate relationships, family, grief, isolation, depression, identity, and pharmaceuticals. Moshfegh is out to challenge our concepts of mental health and toxic relationships, and it certainly challenged mine. You see in this book how mentally ill people become  archetypes and exploited and it calls you out on not considering the mental health of seemingly perfect people who, by all accounts, "have it all." It's brilliant. The skillfulness and depth to this character study astound me.

"It was proof that I had not always been completely alone in this world. But I think I was also holding on to the loss, to the emptiness of the house itself, as though to affirm that it was better to be alone than to be stuck with people who were supposed to love you, yet couldn't."

Compelling, dark, and provocative, I am sure that I've never read anything quite like this. The writing is compelling and smooth. It will both mesmerize you and make you cringe all over. With an unlikable, unreliable nameless narrator and an outrageously funny and equally bleak plot, you're sure to be in for a completely unique reading experience of the lengths to go to for transformation.

Looking back, I can't believe that a book that mostly takes place inside of an apartment about sleeping life away consumed me so. But Moshfegh accomplished that feat with her unrelenting, uncompromising voice. She has won me over and I'm looking forward to my next read by her.
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There are those who will rail against the world, who will do everything in their power to strike back against any real or imagined powers that hold them down. And there are others who want nothing more than to simply remove themselves from the fight, to check out until such time as their problems have somehow miraculously solved themselves.

The unnamed protagonist of Ottessa Moshfegh’s latest novel “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” falls very much into the latter category; she’s a young woman who on the surface appears to have it all, yet desires to completely ignore the world as it rolls on around her … and is willing to go to some extreme measures to achieve that ignorance.

Our narrator is floating through New York City as the 1990s come to an end. She’s young and blonde and pretty, with a Columbia degree, a sweet apartment on the Upper East Side and an easy gig at a hip gallery. She looks to have it all – or at least a reasonable facsimile of “all” considering time and place.

But looks can deceive. She pays for that apartment with money from her inheritance, money she got after the parents she wasn’t particularly close to died. She has yet to find her way to mourning them properly. She’s only got two personal relationships that are anything even close to close. There’s her erstwhile best friend Reva, who bears the brunt of nigh-unwavering scorn and disdain. And then there’s Trevor, her on-again off-again Wall Street beau who uses her largely as a placeholder between relationships he actually wants to maintain.

She loses herself in the banal warmth of mediocre movies, watching the same films over and over again, loading the VCR with repetitive stories that soothe her and never challenge her. Eventually, she decides that what she really wants, more than anything, is to simply … sleep. To sleep all the time, save for whatever food/water/bathroom necessities might crop up.

To that end, she finds a shady quack of a psychiatrist. Dr. Tuttle is weird and unpredictable, but is also perfectly willing to take our narrator at her word regarding her claims of insomnia. To that end, Tuttle happily prescribes a multitude of pharmaceutical solutions – many of which are being offered up not for their intended purposes, but for their range of side effects.

Our heroine plunges into the pharmaceutical fog, constantly seeking the ideal combination of drugs that will allow her to plunge into the state of de facto hibernation that she so desperately craves. She soon discovers, however, that some of these solutions present problems of their own – problems springing from what she has started doing while ostensibly asleep. For her to truly achieve her goal, she’s going to need help – help that may come from an unexpected source.

“My Year of Rest and Relaxation” is something special. This story of self-inflicted loneliness is bleak and funny, marked throughout with memorable moments and turns of phrase. It’s a fascinating story of how perceived alienation can evolve into actual alienation through little more than one’s selective dismissal of self-awareness.

Ottessa Moshfegh is wildly talented. To create such baleful, willful characters, to construct a narrative around these people who are not just unlikeable, but unapologetically so … and to do it in a rich and engaging way is a remarkable feat of literary legerdemain. These are actively off-putting characters, swollen with ego and entitlement – and yet, they enthrall.

From one angle, “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” reads like a condemnation of the shallow nature of the young and hip from that particular time period, awash with trust fund kids playing at creative endeavors while secure in the knowledge that a giant pile of money will break whatever falls they might endure. From another, it’s an understanding nod to the notion that grieving is never easy and that loss impacts all of us in different ways and for different reasons. It’s the temptation to withdraw into oneself amped to the nth degree – introversion cranked to 11.

Regardless of how you choose to read it, one thing’s for sure: Moshfegh is one HELL of a writer. Plenty of folks a lot more qualified than me have called her one of the best of her generation; I certainly can’t see any reasonable argument against it. Her scenes are painted with vivid tactility and her characters are meticulously rendered. And the dialogue … good God, the dialogue. It’s fluid and sharp while still maintaining the verisimilitude that is sometimes lost when talented writers start really flexing. And Moshfegh flexes throughout, unafraid to lean into her talents and embrace them. She’s good and she KNOWS she’s good.

“My Year of Rest and Relaxation” is another outstanding effort from one of our great young writers. It is a funny, sad and delightfully weird book, starring the sort of broken person in whom Moshfegh specializes. It is smart and soulful and absolutely one of the best books of the year.
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Instead of seeking out healers, psychics or the more reasonable therapy, the unnamed narrator of My Year of Rest and Relaxation decides to sleep her way out of depression with an excess of medications prescribed by her deranged psychiatrist along with easy to find sleep enhancers like melatonin and benadryl. This is the funniest book I've ever read about the self-absorbed isolation of debilitating depression as well as an empathic look at the difficult process of grief.
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I really loved reading this novel. This is a really tough book to review because it is exactly the kind of novel that I love to read, however I think that many readers would be turned off by the characters and the tone of the book. Yet, if you like novels featuring a flawed, darkly comedic narrator, with intelligent and snarky observations, then this book is for you. Maybe it means that I'm sort of crazy and disturbed, but I found myself laughing out loud at many lines. I love it when a book hooks you in so that you can't stop reading even though the plot is not realistic and hard to explain in a one-line summary. I was reminded of the show Curb Your Enthusiasm, where the main characters isn't necessarily someone that you would want to be friends with in real life, but by pushing the character to be more honest and do things that are socially unacceptable, our day-to-day human interactions are seen in a different light.
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A feminine Bartleby for the 21st-century. This tart satire on late-capitalist society is both artful & tender. The selfish narrator's observations are brilliant & funny because of her self-awareness. I loved her voice & cringed at the raw honesty.  Underneath, there is pain. This book kept me up every night. The need to numb ourselves to life's constant miseries is universal, I think. Moshfegh takes the idea to an extreme & compels us to wake up.
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My Year of Rest and Relaxation is the tale of a wealthy depressive in her early 20s, set in New York City in the year 2000. I’m going to risk a guess and say that to most people, the main character of this novel is not the sort of person that’s appealing to read about. Especially since the book is written in the first person. It basically means you will be living in the character’s thoughts for however many pages it is. And it gets dark in there.

I’m a huge fan of deeply flawed female characters, but even I had trouble stomaching Moshfegh’s narrator in this novel. Both of her terrible parents died a few years ago, she just graduated from Columbia University, she’s supposedly effortlessly beautiful and she knows it. But after being fired from her part time job at an art gallery, she decides to spend the next year taking a variety of sleeping pills from her hilariously incompetent doctor so that she can spend as much time asleep as humanly possible.

If books came with scratch and sniff, this one would smell stale, like dirty laundry left out too long. In a good way, if only because it’s purposeful. Living inside this character’s head was truly upsetting. My Year of Rest and Relaxation perfectly encapsulates clinical depression and addiction. It’s darkly funny at some points and deeply sad at other points, but the entire time I was reading it I thought there was no way the plot could go anywhere; the sorrow just went too far down, as if the depression was the entire character, the entire plot. Ultimately, the ending did fall slightly flat to me, reaching as it did for a high note in a novel about the search for nothingness. Still, because I admire women writers who write about women that prickle the reader’s skin, I admire this novel and Moshfegh’s writing.

Thanks to Penguin and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of this book.
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My God, I loved this book. I read it with equal parts fascination and dread. Hoe Moshfegh got me to sympathize with an unlikeable character is a testament to her talents and skill. I still want to know what  happened during her blackouts, however, but maybe it's better kept a secret. I'm a fan for life. I would also like to sleep for a year.
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A young woman pursues a year of self-induced hibernation in this dark and wonderfully absurd existential novel. 

Ottessa Moshfegh has done it again. There is a rich beauty in her writing of such oddly complex characters. We meet the protagonist of My Year of Rest and Relaxation near the beginning of her journey. Though not internally withholding, she holds mystery as she explains her sleep plans. She is surrounded by a slew of unlikable characters: A needy friend, a deplorable ex, and a spacey shrink who plies her with drugs of varying strengths. 

As the days go by, she sticks to her plan. She stays in her apartment, takes pharmaceuticals, and sleeps. These moments are often interrupted by her deeply insecure friend Reva who stops by without notice. The first half of the novel is effectively repetitive without ever losing strength. It's a testament to Moshfegh's ability to write such strangely beautiful and cruel introversion. But everything changes for the protagonist when she's given a new experimental drug that causes blackouts. 

My Year of Rest and Relaxation is an utterly unique response to modern life. While it never feels like a direct criticism of contemporary selfishness, Moshfegh has written something that will nonetheless cause readers to reflect on what is important to them and the relationships they have with others. She has cemented her place on my shelf of favorite authors.
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I loved this book! It was funny while also making me think critically about what brings me joy, how I relax, and how I choose to think of my relationships with others. It's a testament to the author's writing that you end up rooting for a character who is not a nice person, but also that you can believe the premise of this story that is effectively unbelievable.
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A difficult book but one that is ultimately rewarding if you choose to stick with it. Moshfegh makes the bold decision to give her novel an absolutely hateful protagonist who represents everything that is wrong with modern privilege. The story is full of savage humor and gives an uncomfortably honest portrait of the selfish and hostile mindset depression can lead to, especially for someone young and lonely. This won't be for everyone but it is brilliantly executed from beginning to end.
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Every new work by Moshfegh is full of surprises. Although I found book a bit emotionally challenging to read, the ending provided redemption for the protagonist and helped make sense of the entire plot.
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I was a massive fan of EILEEN, and this book is another triumph.  Searing and uncomfortable, self+indulgent and perverse, but that’s what makes it so original and provocative.  The fact is that the author is so clever to illustrate the spoiled nature of us today, and how we just want to sleep to feel and be unburdened and reborn.

She’s a serious talent, and the book is terrific and so modern and now.
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