Radiant Shimmering Light by Sarah Selecky
Eleven Novak’s name is her brand; a teacher of enlightenment and spirituality with a powerful online presence. Eleven is beautiful, inspirational and successful and each year takes a group of followers through her famous transforming ‘Ascendancy Program’. Lillian Quick is forty, Canadian and Eleven’s cousin. She hasn’t seen Eleven for over 20 years – back then she knew her as Florence. Lillian currently lives in Toronto and scrapes by as an artist, painting pictures of animals and their auras. When Eleven visits Toronto to recruit people into her Ascendancy Program, Lillian and Eleven reconnect and Lillian moves to New York to work at Eleven’s temple.
I haven’t read a book like Radiant Shimmering Light for quite some time and it was a refreshing change. Selecky has written a satirical and contemporary novel about the enlightenment and life-branding industries. Emails, texts and twitter posts are narrative devices used to great effect alongside Lillian’s point of view to make clever observations about the differences between real life and online presence. Our reliance on electronic devices and social media is especially topical at the moment and I found my reactions to Lillian’s relationship with her phone were a mixture of disbelief and recognition.
What takes this novel beyond a straightforward satire, however, are the characters of Eleven and Lillian, and the relationship between them. By taking us back to when Lillian and Florence were children, the author provides some insight into why in particular Eleven has evolved into who she is, what her motivations are and even a hint about the meaning behind her new name.
Margaret Atwood and Karen Joy Fowler are already lavishing this novel with praise. I think it is an intriguing novel which will elicit a wide range of responses from readers. I can’t think of a more perfect novel for a book club.