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Fourteen-year-old Rainey Royal lives with her father, a jazz musician with a cultish personality, in a once-elegant, now decaying brownstone. Her mother has abandoned the family, and Rainey fends off advances from her father's best friend while trying desperately to nurture her own...
Fourteen-year-old Rainey Royal lives with her father, a jazz musician with a cultish personality, in a once-elegant, now decaying brownstone. Her mother has abandoned the family, and Rainey fends off advances from her father's best friend while trying desperately to nurture her own creative drives and build a substitute family. She's a rebel, even a criminal, but she's also deeply vulnerable, fighting to figure out how to put back in place the boundaries her life has knocked down, and more than that, struggling to learn how to be an artist and a person in a broken world.
Rainey Royal is told in 14 narratives of scarred and aching beauty that build into a fiercely powerful novel: the harrowing and ultimately affirming story of a young artist.
From the Hardcover edition.
Praise for Rainey Royal
"Dylan Landis’s captivating and unnerving novel Rainey Royal, set in Manhattan of the 1970s and early ’80s, is not a thriller, but it smolders with these loaded questions: How far will an adolescent girl go to gain a sense of belonging; and how can her unaimed sexual power put others, and herself, at risk?"
—Leisl Schillinger, The New York Times
"[Rainey is] achingly beautiful and cruelly intimidating . . . that in-your-face mix of fear and fearlessness, carnality, control and powerlessness that is what it sometimes takes to survive as a female in America . . . But Landis never lets you forget who the true victim is. In a world where the adults behave at best like wrinkled spoiled children and at worst like criminals, there's no one more lost and vulnerable than this raging, magnificent, abandoned little girl, who manages by persistence to grow up."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Dylan Landis's Rainey Royal is like its heroine: fierce, winning, and sharp as a blade."
"Rainey Royal is the empowering story of an abandoned fourteen-year-old girl desperately trying to find herself, as an individual and an artist. [Rainey is a] vulnerable, criminal rebel."
"Rainey will remain in my mind forever as one of my favorite characters."
"Might make you cringe—whether you were the kind of girl who had a ball thrown at your face during gym or the kind of threw it . . . As Rainey moves into young adulthood, her sexuality becomes so complicated, it's like a second character in the book. There is power there, she learns, but it's the power of electricity with faulty wiring; lights aglow; the house in flames."
"Wild, dangerous, sometimes certain and other times totally lost, Rainey is a fascinating, unique character . . . The young women, even as lifelong friends, seem to be in a constantly shifting battle for power; under the surface it often is connected to secrets and knowledge."
—Los Angeles Times
"It's difficult to remember a novel that was more continually on edge than Rainey Royal, a series of fraught moments that never seem to let off any psychic steam . . . so taut, the scenes so emotionally charged, that the breaks in the action are welcome . . . beautifully drawn."
"Fiery, daring, unforgettable . . . Landis knows bad girls—how their minds work, how they are made, and why they are broken. Best of all, she knows how to make you love them—which you can’t help but do as you follow Rainey Royal, the title character, through her 1970s Greenwich Village girlhood. Rainey is dangerous, but her struggles are timeless, and Landis writes about her with prose so elegant and crystalline that as you read, you have to remind yourself to breathe."
—Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar, for the San Francisco Chronicle
"Transporting, sensual and musical by turns, appropriately enough for a book about sex and jazz."
"Landis creates a vivid fictive universe . . . every battle, every transgression is minutely observed . . . line by line, one of the smartest and most exacting prose stylists we have."
"[Rainey Royal is] always pushing the moment further, even when part of her feels like backing down, and the result is a story that feels dangerous—as though something might break at any moment."
—The Daily Beast
"Hard to handle, Rainey thinks. That’s what they say when they talk about me.” The book isn’t hard to handle—it’s a fast read that consumes the reader from beginning to end—but Rainey’s experiences are. Landis takes the time to turn Rainey inside out, revealing the dark underbelly of female adolescence."
"Stark and fascinating . . . unforgettable . . . The hundreds of little tragedies painted across the page will leave readers deeply affected as Landis perfectly captures a time period of mad exploration during which lines blurred for young people trying to find themselves."
"Blew me away . . . an amazing character."
—Daniel Chacón, Words on a Wire, KTEP
"[Rainey Royal] deals in short, sharp shocks . . . [with] a language of the imaginative and beating heart . . . [Landis] weaves spells."
"Rainey Royal is a story about loss and recovery by any means necessary . . . It is a brave book, a provocative book, a book that invites re-reading and discussions as intense as the world it portrays."
"Rainey Royal is a tough novel with a tender heart . . . Dylan Landis is an author to be watched."
—New York Journal of Books
"Brilliant, delicate writing . . . a solid choice for literary fiction readers; it also will be appreciated by those who are interested in narratives that depict the bohemian lifestyle."
"A mesmerizing portrait of a teenager in 1970s Greenwich Village. Rainey Royal's life is wantonly glamorous, degenerate, sophisticated . . . [Landis] has created a kind of scandalous beauty in her tale of the simultaneously fierce and vulnerable Rainey."
“Beautiful, richly drawn characters will pull readers into this emotionally charged story and keep them clinging to every lyrical word. Landis’s captivating first novel is a ringing tribute to friendship, autonomy, and artistic presence.”
"Complex . . . a rich, sometimes challenging portrait of young women doing their best to grow."
"Prose is a fine art in the hands of Dylan Landis . . . Rainey Royal is yet another example of her lapidary fiction and her unsettling imagination."
"Every woman has known a Rainey Royal. The coolest girl in school, the most daring, the most beautiful, yet the one who could turn on you—and then, bewilderingly, turn back. What makes a Rainey Royal, and her effect on everyone she encounters—that chaos of yearning, cruelty, woundedness, seeking, and human poetry—we needed a great writer to show us, and here she is. Dylan Landis has written a spare, elegant novel that's pure nerves, pure adrenaline. Should carry a warning, do not read at bedtime."
—Janet Fitch, #1 New York Times bestselling author of White Oleander and Paint It Black
"There is a line in Dylan Landis’s lush, fierce, and stunning novel Rainey Royal, that perfectly captures this book’s intense beauty. 'Rainey feels half like a butterfly has landed on her wrist and half like a knife is angled to her neck.' Rainey Royal is a chronicle of girlhood as a dangerous, delicate thing. There is edge and tenderness and longing to be found here. Always, though, Landis’s words are a butterfly and a knife both cutting you open in necessary ways."
—Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State
"Rainey is infinitely alluring . . . a hard-to-love girl who you can’t help but take deeply into your heart and carry around as if she were someone you once knew and adored."
—Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Wonder Bread Summer
"In this book Dylan Landis creates an unsung heroine. Rainey has been orphaned by two living parents. She and her friends have been left to their own resources. They are falling angels, Manhattan rich girls starting out in the 1970s stumbling their way through a pastel city where there will never be any serious consequences to their mischief, or even to their treachery against each other. Landis’s gorgeous, off-handedly elegant style caught me from the first page. I didn’t so much read Rainey Royal as I was hypnotized by it."
—Carol Anshaw, New York Times bestselling author of Carry the One
“Beautiful, brutal, mesmerizing, Rainey Royal draws you in from the first, breathtaking sentence and doesn’t let you go. Few novels have affected me as this one did. Reminiscent, at times, of Mary Gaitskill and Lorrie Moore, this is a novel—and a character—for the ages, a wholly original and singular piece of work. Unforgettable, indelible. Read it now.”
—Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year
"Dylan Landis is a writer of exceptional rigor and finesse. Every page of Rainey Royal is incandescent—practically ablaze—with the beauty and chaos of adolescence, heartache, art and New York City. I don’t know how she does it, but I hope she never stops."
—Justin Taylor, author of Flings
"Rainey Royal gets under your skin, pushes you out of your comfort zone, and takes you to a truer, more frightening place. Dylan Landis captures the innocence and cruelty of teenage girls in flamey, jewel-like sentences that hover on the edge of rapture: read these stories with your heart in your throat."
—Ellis Avery, author of The Last Nude
“One need only consider some of the ingredients of this flammable dessert of a novel—art, jazz, sex, cigs, saints and miracles and dangerous modern school girls without parental brakes—to know that Rainey Royal, Dylan Landis’s terrifically entertaining novel, is not just for adults. Younger readers will be equally smitten with Rainey Royal, a hardier, funnier successor to Holden Caulfield.”
—Christine Schutt, author of Prosperous Friends
“Do not pick up Dylan Landis’s fire-hearted novel if you have any need for sleep, because this intense, passionate ride though turbulent girlhood will not let go of your throat until you have followed Rainey, Tina and Leah to the complex end. Evocative of literary coming-of-age classics like Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, yet with the modern edge of Lena Dunham’s Girls, Rainey Royal explores the underbelly of art, glamour, jazz, sainthood, magnetism, the 1970s, sex, and what it means to burn.”
—Gina Frangello, author of A Life in Men
"Rainey Royal is the most exquisite combination of tender and terrifying, of girls who walk delicate and angry balances between their love for each other and their need for survival, of a New York not vanished but remembered here in all brownstone and hot streets and threads of music, of young women navigating love and the selfish desires which are not love."
—Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here
“Dylan Landis knows how to unnerve a reader, even as she's appreciating being unnerved. Rainey Royal thrums with sex and power. A brave, exquisite book.”
—Mary Kay Zuravleff, author of Man Alive!
"In the stunning debut novel, Rainey Royal, Dylan Landis introduces us to girls who play games, girls who play with fire, and girls who distrust each other, drawing them into a friendship so profoundly real, it feels as if she knows our secrets. For those of us who were once these girls, and for those of us who were once afraid of these girls, this story unleashes memory both unnerving and thrilling. Deeply human. Surprisingly tender. Pure poetry."
—Susan Henderson, author of Up From the Blue
Praise for Normal People Don't Live Like This
“Wonderful! Leah and Helen are authentic, vulnerable characters, whose intimate truths are exposed at perfect, unexpected moments.”
—Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge
“The characters in Dylan Landis's debut story collection, Normal People Don't Live Like This, are blessedly extraordinary.”
—Elissa Schappell for Vanity Fair
“Watch [Landis] very carefully. Once you can create characters like Leah (or Angeline, Rainey and Helen), there's no stopping you.”
—Los Angeles Times
“The tales in this bravura work are timeless: They could easily belong to our daughters’ generation instead of our own.”
“[A] lean, beguiling novel in stories . . . Elegantly written.”
“Some delicious writing . . . Buy this for your literary fiction readers and short story fans."
From the Hardcover edition.
From the Hardcover edition.
Posted September 12, 2014
A startling and powerful novel in stories. Everyone has known someone like Rainey in their life. You may hate her or love her, but you can't help but be fascinated. A hip, young, 70s New York version of "Olive Kitteridge."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.