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Publishers WeeklyLillian 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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