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?
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.