Hystera

Hystera

4.1 16
by Leora Skolkin-Smith
     
 

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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

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Overview

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

Editorial Reviews

Robert Whitcomb
Leora Skolkin-Smith's new novel, "Hystera," provides a very vivid sense of being in the head of someone having a psychotic breakdown, and is a powerfully useful reference book for dealing with the mental-health system. It also pungently evokes the gritty New York of the '70s.
The Providence Journal
Large-Hearted Boy Reviews
Leora Skolkin-Smith's novel Hystera is an unforgettable story of mental illness. Set in the New York City of the 1970s, the book is told in precise language that sears the characters into your consciousness.
Publishers Weekly
Lillian Weill, a student and spiritual alchemist in 1970s New York City, is haunted by the trauma of her father's strokes, which left him permanently brain-damaged. Having not come to her father's aid, Lillian feels partially responsible. The novel's action dips in and out of the past, but focuses mainly on the events leading up to Lilly's own hospitalization. Lost in her world of delusion, readers are bombarded with a redundancy of images; her father's accident and memories of her overbearing, Israeli mother are dredged up too often, and Skolkin-Smith (The Fragile Mistress) is constantly rephrasing the extent of Lilly's psychosis. Though many of Skolkin-Smith's sentences are poetic, strange, and evocative, the action is hard to believe and the characters lack depth. As in a Romantic novel where ladies faint due to the slightest provocation and die from ennui, Lilly's maladies are hyperbolic, wide ranging, and hard to name. While the symptoms of psychosis are multivalent, the unexplained manifestations of a pre-feminist "hysteria"-which, as the author points out, is Greek for "the wandering uterus"-strain the story's verisimilitude. At best, the book is a poignant prose poem, testing the limits of the reader's associations as the narrative spirals inward, but eventually burns out.
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www.stilettostorytime.wordpress.com
I found Hystera to be a very unique reading experience. It's not a book that will appeal to everyone and in fact I think will be ideal for a very small, select audience. For myself I found the book to be intriguing in many ways but I have to admit it was not really my cup of tea although I do see where it will have it's place and reading audience. I think the individual that will enjoy this work will be interested immediately by the description.
RAGMAG
Hystera is a truly unique, painfully honest portrayal of one young woman's battle with intimacy and ultimately, acceptance of one's actions. Told directly by the patient herself, the reader gets a front row view of an incredibly sick and damaged young woman. The path she takes to recovery is an incredibly rewarding one, a story that will be long savored in my soul. This is a book that I feel won't be understood and appreciated by all, but one that affected me like no other. Highly recommended.
Amal Chabaan
Someone once said that literature is either weighty and wise or intertesting and captivating. Skolkin-Smith puts this to rest in HYSTERA. Lilly is a student in the 1970's at Sarah Lawrence College who experiences her life slip away from her in short mental breaks. One night she swallows too many pills mixed with alcohol and then checks herself into the psychiatric ward at the state hospital. What follows there is a collage of sights, feelings and sounds as Lilly attempts to both fit in with the patient yet keep some part of herself essentially separate. Lilly parents are both alive and the mother figures very heavily in her illness though it is only hinted at until Lilly is unable to avoid her at random meetings. As Lilly journeys (sometimes very unwillingly) back to a healthy state, she alternates between fear of herself, fear of her body that strangely border on paranoid regarding others' intention towards her ad a stubborn belief that she deserves punishment for a tragic occurrence many years prior. This book is a tragically beautiful reminder of how fragile mental health really is.
RAGMAG
The House of Seven Tails
Leora Skolkin-Smith has written a fascinating novel about one woman's descent into mental illness and her struggle to feel whole. This is a haunting and poignant look at Lilly's struggles. My heart went out to Lilly and I would have liked to know her better but the nature of her illness and this book makes that understandably impossible. I felt a range of emotions while reading this book and I, ultimately, rooted for Lilly to find herself and the feeling of security she longs for. I haven't read many books about mental illness but Hystera has piqued my interest in reading some other books about struggling with mental illness and madness. I recommend this book to anyone interested in mental illness and people fighting to overcome it.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611880908
Publisher:
Story Plant
Publication date:
09/10/2013
Pages:
194
Sales rank:
1,430,496
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Related Subjects

What People are saying about this

Carolyn Johnson-Howard
Some might say all writers of fiction are a bit crazy. The statement may hold some truth if we note how much we like to follow the creative paths of fellow writers. I admit to being one of those. Leora Skolkin-Smith's "Hystera" does not disappoint on that count. But it offers so much more.

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, similar—surely—to 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 itself—the amazing techniques that can be observed—learned from—if 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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Meet the Author

Leora Skolkin-Smith was born in Manhattan in 1952, and spent her childhood between Pound Ridge, New York, and Israel, traveling with her family to her mother's birthplace in Jerusalem every three years. She earned her BA and MFA and was awarded a teaching fellowship for graduate work, all at Sarah Lawrence.

Leora's first published novel, Edges (2005) was edited and published by the late Grace Paley for Ms. Paley's own imprint at Glad Day books.

Edges was nominated for the 2006 PEN/ Faulkner Award by Grace Paley; a National Women Studies Association Conference Selection; a Bloomsbury Review Pick, 2006: “Favorite Books of the Last 25 Years”; a Jewish Book Council Selection, 2005; and won the 2008 Earphones Award for an original audio production narrated by Tovah Feldshuh. In addition, it is currently in development as a feature film, produced by Triboro Pictures.

Her novels, “Hystera”, (2011) “The Fragile Mistress” (20008) were selected by Princeton University for their Series: “The Fertile Crescent Moon: women writers writing about their past in The Middle East”.

Hystera was the winner of the 2012 USA Book Award and the 2012 Global E-books Award. Hystera was also a finalist in The International Book Awards, and a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards.
Hystera was republished by The Story Plant in September, 2013

“Edges” is scheduled to be republished this fall, 2014.

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Customer Reviews

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Hystera 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
westcoastreaderJC More than 1 year ago
After reading the author's first novel, EDGES, I was concerned that she might do one of those second-novel, post-success slides...but not Skolkin-Smith. In HYSTERA, she more than delivers the goods. The story is about Lilly, a young woman who ends up in a hospital's psych ward and then slowly, fearfully, discovers a way to fight through the towering emotional obstacles that control her life. Heavy stuff, yet the author pulls us into Lilly's mind and her struggle until we not only feel her emotions, we get so close we almost live them. We suffer for her as she fights those demons holding her responsible for family tragedies beyond her control, and we urge her forward in her efforts to disengage from a narcissistic and manipulative mother. And then we celebrate the unraveling of knots and tangles as she edges toward freedom. From despair to analysis to hope, Skolkin-Smith reveals so much of that below-the-surface pain we all feel, and then leads us toward the light.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THIS REVIEW IS FROM CAROLYN HOWARD-JOHNSON, Reviewer "New Book Reviews" "Some might say all writers of fiction are a bit crazy. The statement may hold some truth if we note how much we like to follow the creative paths of fellow writers. I admit to being one of those. Leora Skolkin-Smith's "Hystera" does not disappoint on that count. But it offers so much more. 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, similar--surely--to 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 itself--the amazing techniques that can be observed--learned from--if 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. --- Carolyn Johnson-Howard, reviewer.
cindy mason More than 1 year ago
exceptionally powerful
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
riveting haunting
BookloverCL More than 1 year ago
An incredible, insightful and lyrically written novel about a young woman's journey in a mental institution in NYC. Set against the backdrop of the 70s, Hystera is as thought-provoking as it is insightful. The narrator moves back and forth through time, revealing how the past is prelude to the future. It's no wonder the book is getting so much critical acclaim--and I cannot wait to see what the talented Ms. Skolkin-Smith will do next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will surprise and thrill you. A wonderful ride through the mind of a woman coming undone and reaching for hope. Will she find it? This story will embrace you. Beautifully told.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fiercely original, brilliant...Skolkin-Smith takes grand risks in creating Lily's story, and they pay off. It's a novel that not only grips you but also stays with you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You've never read a book like this before. There aren't enough stars in the ink blue sky to do justice to "Hystera" and her author Leora Skolkin-Smith. I've never known an author who was able to dig so deeply and lay bare the most intimate truths about being a woman and the truth about psychological torture - the torturing of one's own mind and soul by ones self, as well as the torture inflicted knowingly or unknowingly or both, by another. The author's words do this with no melodrama, no pointing of fingers at others, or any 'poor poor pitiful me'. Leora Skolkin-Smith and Hystera have touched the deepest inner me. I have never read such a courageous and "I'm going to tell the truth no matter who or what people may say" work like this ever before. What Skolkin-Smith writes about in "Hystera" needs to be read and understood. I've never read anything so raw and oh so from the bulb honest before about anyone or any issue. What lessons the author and "Hystera" teach us through words without force... What gifts this author has already given me and will be giving those who read this book... With her novel "Hystera" Skolkin-Smith has dared and risked everything inside herself to claim and speak her own truths for herself, and for her readers. What she writes about and how she writes makes her easy prey for reviewers and readers. Here's why: Reading "Hystera" takes the reader on a journey to the very depths of what we all are at our core. Taking that journey is not easy or comfortable. Reading this author's words feel so viscerally real. I felt I was inside her heart and mind seeing and feeling a virtual stream of consciousness outpouring of thoughts, emotions, and writing. I believe this takes us, her readers, to a place inside ourselves where our souls can be stripped of pretense, IF we as readers choose NOT to take the easy way out, but rather give all of ourselves to this journey. And reading "Hystera" is every bit as personal a journey as one can take, that will feel and mean different things to each reader. Fully taking the journey that is "Hystera" is nothing less than opening ourselves up to ourselves, to the deep bowels of self- scrutiny that as readers we can CHOOSE to examine and expose, no matter the reaction or judgement on the part of anyone else, including ourselves. Leora Skolin-Smith has written a book that I believe can literally change people's lives. She and "Hystera", who are one,Hystera have given readers an opportunity to understand and to be understood, and to forgive and to be forgiven. Thank you Leora Skolkin-Smith! Thank you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hypnotic and graceful, Hystera explores a time and place with shattering eloquence. A young woman is in a mental institution,  but through her, Skolkin-Smith explores what it really means to be human. Caroline Leavitt
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting story, however abruptly stops. There are several story lines discussed, but not developed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
E xtrxa coverter
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Got to page 27 and couldn't take it anymore.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Found it very hard to get into n frankly only finished to see if it would get better which it didnt