Radiant Shimmering Light
by Selecky, Sarah

Working to establish herself online as a pet-aura portrait artist, Lilian reconnects with her cousin, the famed head of a feminine lifestyle empowerment brand whose seemingly successful makeover program transforms Lilian's perspectives about authenticity versus marketing magic.

Sarah Selecky's debut story collection, This Cake Is for the Party, was a finalist for the Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book, and longlisted for the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award. She is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States and earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Her writing has appeared in the Walrus, the New Quarterly, and the Journey Prize Anthology, among many others. She lives near Toronto.

Selecky's biting, tragicomic first novel is an insider look at the intersection between the sincerity of belief and the commodification of aspiration. Lillian Quick is middle-aged, broke, living in a dingy Toronto apartment, attempting to live her artist dream as a pet portraitist possessed of a special skill: she can see the auras surrounding animals. A chance online encounter with Eleven Novak, founder of the wildly successful Ascendency self-actualization program, reveals her to be Lillian's long-lost cousin Florence, with whom she hasn't spoken in 20 years. She jumps at the offer to join the Ascendency and relocate to its New York City headquarters as a marketing executive. Lillian soon emerges as a font of aphorisms and a haphazard follower of self-improvement practices gleaned from her devotion to social-media-famous lifestyle gurus and primed to be an object of pity and ridicule. Lillian's sincerity is endearing if infuriating. Selecky's deadpan tone, punchy writing, and vivid characters transport readers to a specific, highly diverting world that hits close to the bone and sparks the self-reflection it's spoofing. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Dear fill-in-the-blank, we are excited to embark on this journey of transformation with you. Please follow the link at the end of this newsletter to make sure your credit card info is up-to-date. Recently having turned 40 and living in Toronto on a shoestring, Lilian Quick is trying to follow all the rules for self-promotion and personal enlightenment and negotiate the tricky, emerging overlap between the two. Since she was young, Lilian has seen animal auras , and her pet portrait work includes these glowing colors. Her attempts to grow her business can be painfully, hilariously bumbling (she often scolds herself for negative self-talk). But just as she's poised to gain a larger audience thanks to a commission from Canada's most famous female poet/skin-care entrepreneur, she is also invited to work at the Temple—the New York headquarters of spiritual self-help guru Eleven Novak, who happens to be Lilian's cousin and childhood intimate. Since she has been following Elev en's teachings anyway ("Live the way you love to feel" is one; you can get it on a phone case), and since that gig seems more likely to provide financial stability, Lilian says yes and finds herself dropped into the heart of the sausage-making factory. Lilian is a sponge for these teachings and wildly suggestible. Eleven is a class-A manipulator, and her business is a transparent pyramid scheme. But Selecky refuses to work strictly in tropes. What begins as a killer satire opens up to some messy ideas: Spiritual teachings can be mostly bunk but partly useful. Women are easy marks but that's because they are rightfully hungry for empowerment. And Lilian herself has strange and lovely depths that she manages to plumb thanks to—or in spite of—the work. A funny, tender, gimlet-eyed dive into the cult of self-improvement. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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