I loved Sarah Selecky’s Giller-nominated collecting of short stories, This Cake is for the Party. Each story tells us about a transformative moment in its main character’s life. Everyday, seemingly trivial observations give weight and heart to her words. I couldn’t wait to delve into her first novel—Radiant Shimmering Light—just-released in Canada. Surely, the novel would be more of the same, right?
Not so fast. When you start reading about Lilian, a struggling Etsy artist who sees auras of fur babies and gets reeled in by pyramid schemes, you may think you’ve encountered the latest Sophia Kinsella heroine. You’ll scratch your head, confused. But, you’ll keep reading because it’s uncomfortably funny. You may even recognize the grip social media has on Lilian. Her idolization of Instagrammers. Her constant checking for likes. Her obsession with branded colour palettes. Admit it—you’ve been there too.
Then Selecky takes the absurdity up a notch. The narrative gains momentum when Lilian reconnects with her guru/celebrity/pseudo cult leader cousin Eleven. Excited, and a tad star struck, she accepts to move from her tiny sublet in Toronto to a guest home in New York City. There she starts to work for Eleven in the Temple. She’ll take over creatives for a business selling pricey workshops and merch to women with a penchant for self-care and the divine feminine. Life seems to be rolling along better than ever for Lilian who thinks, “This is what work-life balance feels like! Everything is finally balanced in the proverbial pie chart of my life—work, family and friends, spirituality, money, health. I love being forty. I’ve never felt stronger, healthier, or more solvent.”
At that point I was expecting the beginning of the end. A traumatic unraveling. Instead, things slowed down and became repetitive. The story lost both its edge and my attention. Every new description of an aura—whether bright magenta, grey-blue and green, or butter yellow—became nauseating. I wanted more. More tension. A bigger, brighter (Yes, I just said that!) ending. But… maybe that’s just the point of the novel. Perhaps the ending, regardless of its bright whirl of shimmering auras, is meant to be diluted. Subdued. The novel is fun, but fell a bit short for me.
I’ll be interested to see how the novel is received, in coming weeks. Have you read this new novel? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below!
I’d like to thank Sarah’s publicist at HarperCollins Canada Ltd. for sending me a copy of the novel. Honest thoughts are my own.