The Providence Journal
Hysteraby Leora Skolkin-Smith
Set in the turbulent 1970s when Patty Hearst became Tanya the Revolutionary, HYSTERA is a timeless story of madness, yearning, and identity. After a fatal accident takes her father away, Lillian Weill blames herself for the family tragedy. Tripping through failed love affairs with men and doomed friendships, all Lilly wants is to be sheltered from reality. She… See more details below
Set in the turbulent 1970s when Patty Hearst became Tanya the Revolutionary, HYSTERA is a timeless story of madness, yearning, and identity. After a fatal accident takes her father away, Lillian Weill blames herself for the family tragedy. Tripping through failed love affairs with men and doomed friendships, all Lilly wants is to be sheltered from reality. She retreats from the outside world into a world of delusion and the private terrors of a New York City Psychiatric Hospital.
How do we know who we really are? How do we find our true selves under the heavy burden of family and our pasts? In an unpredictable portrait of mental illness, HYSTERA penetrates to the pulsing heart of the questions.
WINNER: GLOBAL E-BOOK AWARDS, USA BOOK AWARDS IN FICTION
FINALIST: INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS, INDIE EXCELLENCE AWARDS
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What People are saying about this
Like most literary novels, it reads as if details are strongly influenced by real memories. Real as they feel, the narrator has committed herself to a psychiatric ward, so she is not a reliable source for judging reality. The lush, and somehow still subtle allusions to sex and body and her own past experiences, leave us not quite sure what conclusions the author intended the reader to make. Even an occasional syntax oddity ("Helen never explained why she stopped going back to her old house in Jerusalem, taking Lilly with her, but only that she could no longer recognize the places of her youth there anymore by 1960."), leaves us with uncertainty, similarsurelyto what the protagonist is going through.
Even descriptions about the protagonist's mother's preoccupation with the ancient craft of book binding is imbued with mystery. The subjects of this binding are written in ancient Hebrew and Aramaic texts and "Alchemical symbols" are the subjects this refurbishing is intended to preserve.
At it's root, "Hystera" is a story about shame, shame that lurks in the recesses of our psyches, shame imposed on us by parents, culture, and ourselves. A Universal Shame. Puritannical as well as Hebraic. Guilt no one generation, race, or religion can lay claim to.
I loved this book because it was about a writer, of course. But I also loved it because of the writing itselfthe amazing techniques that can be observedlearned fromif the reader doesn't get too caught up in the forward motion of the story and the tone of the book not to pay attention.
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