Cover Image: The Skin and Its Girl

The Skin and Its Girl

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Sarah Cypher invites us to sit down and hear some stories in her compelling debut novel “The Skin and Its Girl”. The first one is a doozy: the seeming stillbirth and subsequent revival of Betty, who you will never forget. This is only the first of so many stories - some real, many not, fables, mysteries, fairy tales, historical recollections - all with some bearing on the multi-generational history of the remarkable Rammani family.

We are all unique. We bear genes and a heritage that is ours alone. How we carry it is in part our choice, though importantly due to the actions and imposition of others. Race, gender, ethnicity, class, sexual preference are all components that make up our whole. Betty does her best as our virtually omnipresent guide, slowly revealing who she has become. She is undeniably special.

Set aside ample time for “The Skin and Its Girl”. Sentences are beautiful and need to be read carefully and reread often. While the flow is sublime, I was not always quite sure who was speaking to whom, where exactly we were, if it was real or just a vision - past or future. This is fiction where it is best to immerse yourself while you read and ponder. If that’s your kind of book, you will love “The Skin and Its Girl”.

Last word: Let there one day be Peace for all in the Middle East.

Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for the eARC.

Was this review helpful?

I have mixed reviews about this one. The story is told as the main character is talking to her auntie post mortem. She's telling the story of her own life, with bits of auntie's life mixed in. It was an interesting story in terms of culture and feelings and family dynamics. But it was also kind of all over the place. There were times I wasn't sure what timeframe we were in. And I'm not entirely sure what the point of the whole story is. But I liked reading it. So you can see how I'm conflicted. What was this book about, really? What happens next!
A literally blue child is born to a mother who didn't plan to keep her. Her aunt swoops in and they all keep the blue baby. This story is told mostly from her POV. Her parents try to make her childhood as normal as possible without bringing extra attention to themselves. The auntie and grandmother are also very much involved.
There's mental health, there's some soul searching, there's some finding oneself. I don't know that there was a clear tying together of things. It was about the blue child but also about the aunt.

Was this review helpful?

Beautiful writing the author drew me in from the first pages.This is a unique literary story a book that is multilayered,I will be recommending this amazing nove.l #netgalley#theskinanditsgirl.

Was this review helpful?

This was a sweeping debut! The writing is so descriptive and the characters were written very well. This is a story about desire and how we see ourselves.

It is a story about a baby, Betty, born a shocking color of cobalt blue! Ready to give the baby up, the mother changes her mind when she sees the baby. Their family was known for their famous blue soap and this must be a sign. So home she goes to raise the baby with her grandmother and her aunt. The aunt has some secrets of her own and Betty will be shocked to hear those.

When she is grown she must decide which stories she will believe and which she will let change her life and break a cycle of a broken family.

I had a bit of difficulty following Nuha’s storytelling. But other than that, it was good.

NetGalley/April 25th, 2023 by Ballantine Books

Was this review helpful?

A surreal, intricate, and beautifully written story about identity, love, and family.

The Skin and Its Girl opens in a hospital. Betty Rummani has stunned the doctors and nurses - she has transformed from a stillborn baby to a perfectly healthy baby (with cobalt skin). Though Betty Rummani might not have been a Rummani at all, if Aunt Nuha hadn’t persuaded Betty’s mother to cancel the adoption she had planned. Betty grows up isolated but loved and Aunt Nuha is a formidable presence, full of stories and keeper of secrets. The story unfolds as Betty sits by her Aunt Nuha’s gravestone, recounting her childhood, and what she has learned since then.

The writing is gorgeous and there are many stunning passages throughout. I adored Betty and Nuha and learning about the Rummani family lore.

Thank you very much to Random House Ballantine and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy.

Was this review helpful?

First off I would like to say thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for giving me a chance to read this book prior to its release.

The Skin and It's Girl is a slow and building novel that has complicated roots. Elspeth is a girl born under uncertain circumstances. She is born the color blue but perfectly healthy. Almost adopted at birth Auntie Nuha comes in with her clock of deception brewed with love and Elspeth (or Betty as she calls her) is brought back into the Rummani Matriarch.

Auntie Nuha's skin and Elspeth's are not visibly comparable yet with the more I read I felt their pain, the love engrained in them for their family and their lovers, and the secrecy that was draped over it all. I think it was a clever choice on Cypher to later introduce us to the notebooks her aunt had. Cypher is bringing Auntie Nuha back to life for us. She made us build a similar relationship that Elspeth/Betty had with her aunt. I related in more ways than expected to Elspeth. From a shared sexuality to having an older parental figure that you admired and loved while also being fearful of. It always baffles me how all those feelings can coexist as one and yet your love of that person is what solely stands out in the end.

I grew to really love Nuha Rummani, sympathize for Tashi, admire Saahi, and feel protective over Elspeth. Cypher made you feel apart of the Rummani family - a gift wrapped in another skin.

"I have not forgotten that in all practical and imaginary ways, you are still my author."

Was this review helpful?

The Skin and Its Girl takes the reader on a winding journey through complex generational family dynamics with a dash of social commentary all while staying in the 2nd person POV.

Some of it worked and some of it didn’t.

The story covers a lot of ground, so much in fact that at times it was hard to convince myself to keep reading. The book wasn’t boring, just slow, and it was hard to keep the 2nd person POV at the forefront of my mind because the timeline is not linear.

The writing is beautiful but meanders way too long for a one-sided conversation that is supposed to told all in one day but covers 20 years.

If 2nd person is a POV that you’re excited about, you should definitely check this out.

Was this review helpful?

In this novel, a girl is born as blue as the soap her family made back in Palestine. She is born to three fairy godmothers: a mother, struggling with depression; a grandmother, exiled from home and then from family; and an auntie, you, a tale-weaver who is somehow both a reliable family pillar and an always-outsider. As a woman, still blue, she visits your graveside and revisits your old journals, seeking answers and advice.

This book is written in beautiful prose, and I think readers will like this book if they enjoyed the narrative style of Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree. It's not quite the same but the narrative style is similarly winding, loping, looping, circling and if you didn't mind that in Tomb of Sand, I think you'll have an easier go of this book than I did. It's plainly obvious that this author can write - some of the lines she included here were so striking I had to write them down (that's VERY rare for me, like almost never). However, I really struggled with this book. It took me about a month to read (usually I read a 300-page book in a few days) and it's not because it was a bad book but every time I picked it up, I would read only a few pages before putting it back down again. It never really hooked me into the story's plot, nor do I feel like I ever really got to know any of the characters. I hesitate to label it "boring" because it really wasn't - slow, maybe - but the plot and characters are very interesting. It just felt like the narrative never went anywhere. There was rarely plot progress. The story circles back on itself time and time again but we never go anywhere. I'm not even sure what the plot of the book is. Who is the main character? What was the 'point' so to speak, of the book? A reflection on family, sure, but 'exile'? ...maybe?, sexuality? a bit...

Was this review helpful?

Interesting subject matter where the protagonist relates her past experiences to where she is currently in life and possibly into her future. Nothing surprising here except for the fact that she is blue, everyone’s past directly ties to who they become later in life. The beginning of the book was difficult to follow. The story is told through dialogue the protagonist is having with her Aunty. Then there are side conversations with both her mother and grandmother, all three are told in past tense. I kept wondering, who is she talking to now? For me, this made the story line hard to follow for the first 25 percent of the book. Once I got the gist of the storyline delivery, the book just rambled on and on. Goodreads has many 5 star reviews for this book, but for me it just didn’t work.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Wow I really wanted to get further into this book then I did. I got a bad case of brain fog and unfortunately could not finish it. I will be looking for this book once it is published to read! Thank you!

Was this review helpful?

Thank you, Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Ballantine Books, for allowing me to read The Skin and Its Girl early!

I'll keep it simple: I ADORED THIS BOOK AND EVERYONE SHOULD BUY THEMSELVES A COPY ONCE IT IS OUT.

Was this review helpful?

(3.5 stars) This book started out with a bang. A girl is stillborn because the umbilical cord is wrapped around her neck. As her mother is moved to a recovery room and the nurse tends to the baby’s details (time of birth/death, etc.), the baby’s pulse miraculously re-starts and her body gradually turns blue. Not a light blue, but a solid, medium-hue blue. When the baby is brought in, her unusual feature causes her mother to re-think giving her up for adoption. She decides to keep Elspeth (Betty), the baby, and raise her along with her grandmother and great-aunt (Nuha). It’s this great aunt who forms the 2nd person that the book is narrated to. Some 20 years after she was born, Betty has found her great-aunt’s diaries and pieced together the story of her illustrious family, one which was famous back in the old country (Palestine) for its soap-making. Secrets come to light as Betty reconnects with her mother and absent father, who are trying to piece a life together again, always under the tutelage of the family matriarch, Nuha.

While I found this book to be well-written, even poetic at times, I had a hard time hanging with the second-person narration involving the great aunt. I had to work to keep in mind the object of the story, as Nuha was not always the primary subject of the recounting. I’m also not sure I caught all of the secrets of the family as they were revealed. I got the gists, but some of the particulars escaped me, like the ending with its “skin” references.

As the blurb says better than I can, this is “a searing, poetic tale about desire and identity and a provocative exploration of how we let stories divide, unite, and define us”. If this description piques your interest and you’re comfortable with 2nd person narratives, you could do worse than to give The Skin and Its Girl a try.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for providing me with the e-ARC of this book.

Was this review helpful?

The Skin and Its Girl by Sarah Cypher was a wonderful debut!
I don't think my review can do this story any justice!
Sarah Cypher writing is very engaging and she pulls you with her beautiful characters!
She knows how to tell a story. Different but interesting!
I enjoyed reading Betty's story and following her on this journey.

"I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own."

Random House & Ballantine,
Thank You for your generosity and gifting me a copy of this eARC!

Was this review helpful?

"You can be anyone in chaos, and the tricky thing is, the closer you look at life, the more chaotic it is. From hour to hour, day to day, the girl had to keep but one fact straight in her head: her name."

The Skin and Its Girl had me hooked from the beginning with its intersecting stories lines and pending answers to questions I could not stop thinking about as the narrative unfolded. I loved the unique narration of this story as told from niece to bereaved auntie. We first meet our narrator, Betty, at the gravesite of her aunt as she recollects memories from the past and recalls stories she was told both true and untrue. Through the narrators reflections we piece together the story of her aunt, named Nuha Rummani, both who she actually is and who she had to pretend to be as a matter of her own survival.

As we learn the truth of Nuha's story before she became who she is when we are introduced to her, we learn Nuha was given a suit of blue skin to wear in order to conceal her identity after saving a burning boy. As readers we remain at the edge of our seat as we uncover why she wore this skin and how she will prevent herself from being uncovered.

If you enjoy books that keep you guessing and wondering how reliable or unreliable the narrator is you will love this story jam packed with lyrical prose and metaphorical meaning. The traditional elements of storytelling in this narrative are a homage to Palestinian culture and history. I learned so much about soap production and storytelling in Palestine by default in this gorgeous story. Thank you to the author and publisher for the e-arc copy!

Was this review helpful?

The Skin and Its Girl by Sarah Cypher is a novel about shared histories and how everything we have in the present has roots in something ancient.

Betty, a queer Palestinian American, is torn between staying in the only country she's ever known and leaving to be with the woman she loves. She does not want to perpetuate the cycle of exile in her family but wants to follow her heart. Upon discovering her Aunt Nuha's journals that contained passages about her life and sexuality, Betty uncovers much more about her own history. The Skin and Its Girl follows Betty as she discovers a hidden history about the Rummani family lore.

This book is complicated in a great way. It deals with the idea of our shared histories and how every trauma leaves its imprints in us. A wonderful story about trying to find refuge and answers in the past told with amazing different stories and perspectives. With many different characters throughout many different times, at times it became a bit hectic to keep track of. However, this is an important story with beautiful prose and a deep history you can easily get lost in.

Thank you to Random House Publishing Group and Netgalley for this ARC.

Was this review helpful?

Once I suspended reality and stopped worrying about timelines and keeping the many characters straight, I began to enjoy this usual novel. I still am not sure of many of the events of the novel as it skipped around in time, in narrators and in settings. The writing was lyric and lovely and that is what kept me reading. The Skin and it’s Girl was in truth a love story between many different characters.

Was this review helpful?

Really gorgeous writing and this story was definitely moving! It's not the type of work I typically read, but I feel like THE SKIN AND ITS GIRL is an important read, and I'm glad to have read it.

Was this review helpful?

This is beautifully written, full of astonishingly woven phrases and passages; the entire book is a revelation. It's an exploration of a family history, of myths, of relationships that have been hidden or partially obscured, and of how time and circumstances and mental illness shape and alter those pieces of our identities. The characters feel real and their stories are compelling--I wanted this book to go on and on. Highly recommended.

Was this review helpful?

Fantastic fiction. Wonderful prose and story. I picked this up on a whim and really enjoyed this as the writing is stunning and the story is really beautiful

Was this review helpful?

Huge thanks to NetGalley for this ARC, and what an honor to be the first reviewer on Goodreads!

I enjoyed this book quite a lot! I rolled in expecting a sweeping, cultural story, one I couldn't relate to but would enjoy anyways, and it ended up partially that and partially a struggling woman taking refuge in the past to guide her, which I ended up relating with a lot.
The prose is huge and beautiful, while describing the little stories that build us. It's so believable, raw and uncensored that I found myself checking the NG page to make sure it was fiction! Besides this, dear gods, the food descriptions always get me when I read about cultures not my own. They just sound ridiculously delicious, especially when prepared with loving, experienced hands.
I found some of the chapters a bit too long and rambling, but for the most part, it was just a delight to be swept up into the story. Thanks again to NetGalley for providing me with this opportunity!

Was this review helpful?