Radiant Shimmering Light by Sarah Selecky
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication date: December 4, 2018
Genres: Debut, Fiction, Satire
Lilian is trying to live her best life, but utilizing her ability to see animals’ auras while painting pet portraits is not working out. She can’t even earn enough to pay the rent on her Toronto apartment. She feels stymied and trapped so when her cousin Eleven (formerly Florence) Novak invites her to New York City to attend one of her famous female empowerment seminars she jumps at the opportunity. Blessings to the goddess–Lilian will be able to soak up all this knowledge and take her gifts to the next level, for free! This is Radiant Shimmering Light, Sarah Selecky’s searing, but hilarious satire about the virulent monetization of all things aspirational.
What to say about this novel that oozes with all the precious sincerity of women telling you on Instagram and their picture-perfect blogs, that self-actualization can be achieved with mala beads made from the dried sweat of Buddhist monks who have reached enlightenment, for the low price of $299, while at a wellness retreat in Bali, $7,000? Not much except be prepared to laugh and laugh hard.
Lilian is a kind, insecure woman who wants to be healthy, save the planet, and make money without selling her soul. She has no sense of self and so latches onto anyone or anything she sees as more ‘evolved’ than herself. This makes her annoying reading at times, as does everything having to do with Eleven and her lifestyle pyramid scheme. But…if you go in knowing that every single word in Radiant Shimmering Light is riffing on the pernicious problem of selling hope in today’s society? Well, then you can laugh about cell phones that chime every hour with a tone specific to your heart chakra; chocolates that, when eaten properly, connect you to the rhythms of the earth; and surrendering to the divine feminine.
As Lilian progresses ever upward in her transcendent journey she is plagued with questions about her cousin Florence. Not the hip and balanced Eleven, but the young girl with questionable ethics who got away with a lot when they were young. Under Eleven’s influence, Lilian herself plays fast and loose with events, blurring the line between fact and feeling. Laugh-out-loud satire is a fabulous find, but seasoning it with the truth can be a dicey prospect. The problem is that the subject Selecky chooses (the MeToo movement) is a delicate one that doesn’t lend itself to satire. It left me uncomfortable as to what exactly was being said.
This hitch aside, Radiant Shimmering Light goes full circle in the journey of the spiritual wanderer. Lilian searches and finds, but thanks to Selecky’s wit what she finds may or may not be enlightenment. No matter, you’ll still laugh.