Radiant Shimmering Light

by Sarah Selecky

Hardcover, 2018




Bloomsbury Publishing (2018), 368 pages


A nuanced satire--both hilarious and disconcerting--that probes the blurred lines between empowerment, spirituality, and consumerism in our online lives. Lilian Quick is 40, single, and childless, working as a pet portrait artist. She paints the colored light only she can see, but animal aura portraits are a niche market at best. She's working hard to build her brand on social media and struggling to pay the rent. Her estranged cousin has become internet-famous as "Eleven" Novak, the face of a massive feminine lifestyle empowerment brand, and when Eleven comes to town on tour, the two women reconnect. Despite twenty years of unexplained silence, Eleven offers Lilian a place at The Temple, her Manhattan office. Lilian accepts, moves to New York, and quickly enrolls in The Ascendency, Eleven's signature program: an expensive, three-month training seminar on leadership, spiritual awakening, and marketing. Eleven is going to help her cousin become her best self: confident, affluent, and self-actualized. In just three months, Lilian's life changes drastically: She learns how to break her negative thought patterns, achieves financial solvency, grows an active and engaged online following, and builds authentic friendships. She finally feels seen for who she really is. Success! . . . But can Lilian trust everything Eleven says? This compelling, heartfelt satire asks us: How do we recognize authenticity when storytelling and magic have been co-opted by marketing?… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Lilian Quick is an artist. She paints what she sees. She sees dog auras. Not just dogs. She sees the auras of all animals. But not people. Animal auras are constant, sure, steady. Whereas people are so changeable and unpredictable. Maybe that’s why she can’t see them. And it also may explain why she can’t really connect with them. Her truest friend, when she was growing up, was her cousin Florence. But a rift between their mothers ended the habit of spending summer vacation together. She hasn’t seen Florence since they were both 20 and attending their grandmother’s funeral. She hasn’t seen Florence, but she follows her. As do thousands of other women. Florence is now the life guru Eleven and her Ascendency program is sweeping in ever more committed devotees. She also has her own product line. When Florence/Eleven brings her Ascendency event to Toronto, Eleven comps Lilian a couple of tickets and invites her to join them as an aspiring ascendent. And thus begins Lilian’s transformative period, escaping near-penury as a struggling artist in Toronto, moving to New York, working at The Temple with Eleven and her hand-picked cadre of women who stage-manage all of the Ascendency’s events, online communication, affiliation program, recruitment, and product development. But Lilian isn’t merely raising her consciousness. She’s reconnecting to the memories of her one true childhood friend. The first and only person who believed her when she revealed that she could she animal auras. The one who was a beacon for her. And once again Florence (or rather, Eleven) is lighting the way.

Sarah Selecky’s writing is pitch perfect. She absolutely captures the tone, the linguistic niceties, and the sincerity of the alternative self-help phenomenon. She also catches its underlying fiscal motivations, its competitiveness, its sophisticated use of online and social media, its irreality. Yet this is not bald satire. What looks to be a novel critiquing an industry, is in the end more a novel of character. Lilian is fully committed. She sees what she sees. And at times she does see through what is happening around her. But she also begins to see even more. And who’s to say it isn’t due to Ascendency? And who’s to say that the state of being Lilian achieves isn’t real? It’s a tightrope that Selecky is walking but she gets to the other side as though she were walking on solid ground. Remarkable.

Highly recommended.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Jane-Phillips
Lilian Quick is an artist who paints pet portraits. Out of touch with her cousin, Florence, Lilian has been following her on the internet as Florence emerged as Eleven Novak, a self-help guru. The two women reconnect and then Eleven invites Lilian to join her Ascendency brand in New York. This was an enjoyable novel about two women reconnecting after decades apart. I enjoyed it as the characters were older than a lot female characters in similar books (my age bracket), however they still read as young which is the way I feel.… (more)


Original language


Physical description

368 p.; 6.42 inches


1635571804 / 9781635571806

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