Betty Rummani sits at her dear great-aunt’s gravestone, ruminating over a massive life proposition and wishing she was still here today to cure Betty’s indecision. Throughout this one day, Betty reveals the rich and often obscured history of the Rummani family in Palestine, all learned through Nuha Rummani’s carefully recorded journals. I can see why people wouldn’t like this - its pace is very, very slow and at times feels like it isn’t going anywhere. But this book felt very important to see through to the end given the context of Israel’s decades-long genocide and settler colonial project against Palestine 🇵🇸🇵🇸 The writing is so beautiful and poetic, such unique and delicately crafted storytelling, and there were full phrases and passages that almost made me gasp. Loved the blend of ancestry and mythology, the uncovering of obscured identities, and narratives of how the continuous decimation and fragmenting of entire bloodlines in Palestine due to Israeli occupation and displacement have a perpetual ripple effect on the Rummani family globally. Thank you Netgalley and Ballantine Books for this ARC!
Dense, occasionally confusing, but important story about family. The best way I can describe it is that you know while reading that it's a good book but the process of reading it isn't enjoyable
One of those books where your mind is blown that this is the author’s debut. Just a brilliantly rich, complex, nuanced story about, well, an entire universe of themes but mostly the power of family, of stories, of women. The Rummanis and their lives, both past and present, were written so beautifully, so convincingly, that my heart ached. It felt like a book that I never wanted to end, a story so vivid I can’t grasp that it isn’t real.
The Skin and Its Girl by Sarah Cypher is a book for lovers of literary fiction who do not mind a bit of ambiguity. This book tackles themes of identity, secrets, and family history.
Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for sharing this book with me. All thoughts are my own.
A beautiful novel about a niece and her aunt - a relationship I don't often see centered in books. It wraps in magical and fantasy elements within literary fiction which for me, made it really enjoyable. Not to mention its queer!
A blue skinned baby girl is born to a mother of Palestinian descent on the US West Coast. The domineering great aunt swoops in to care for the child. The mother is a bit unhinged. The grandmother is preoccupied with caring for her dying second husband. The father has one hand and is divorced from the mother because of an affair. They are quite a cast of characters. The back story tells of some of the struggles that happened in Palestine after the British departed. I'm not getting into that. But it's interesting. I think the characters themselves are what make this novel what it is.
I definitely recommend this one.
I found it hard to get absorbed in this book. It wasn’t awful in the end because the story is one that needs to be read. The timeline felt all over the place and I had trouble understanding the order of events at times. I had to restart the book several times and ended up listening to the audiobook, but it still didn’t keep my attention easily.
Nuha and Saeeda Rummani leave a legacy for their descendants that's inspiring, brave and empowering. I appreciated the perspective of the main character in this story. And the family saga, like the soap factory and flue skin, were interesting. But the flowy language disrupted the story for me.
A gorgeous reflection on family lore, the evolution of identity, and stubborn love. Our protagonist confronts her own fears through the lens of her beloved great aunt: one of my favorite characters of the year. Full of juicy prose and strong imagery. I could not agree more that Cypher's debut reads like the work of a much more seasoned author.
“the world is full of salt blossoms it schools people not to see, even when we are right here in plain sight.”
it’s about the pain of exile, of being displaced from your home, disconnected from your land, pushed to the edges. ever reaching for your home, for your family, for the place you are loved and valued for simply existing. for being allowed to exist
“at stake were two futures: one where all the books of law and medicine behind his desk got to tell my story, where the world absorbed me, and another one where i kept being a wonder, an argument against the disappointing order of things.”
it’s a beautiful weaving of myth and realism, of the past and the present. the writing is beautiful. and also sometimes the numerous storylines were a bit jolting and hard to follow
Thanks #netgalley for this book in exchange for an honest review. I unfortunately just couldn't get into this book. I tried reading then found myself reading something else. I went back and tried again but it just didn't keep my interest.
i do not think i was the target audience for this book. i felt very stupid trying to read it. it was dense and directionless. i really wish i liked this more but i might recommend to a friend that can/will connect with it more than i did.
I just couldn't get through this one. The prose was way too dense and it was just too slow to want to keep going.
A wonderful, poetic, emotional drama. The Girl and Her Skin by Sarah Cypher is a reflective novel of a girl whom was born blue. Spanning across several generations of women supporting each other, foreign in the country. Of struggling with identity and confidence, of mental health and legacy. Very interesting and insightful. Thank you NetGalley, the author and publisher for the review copy. All opinions are my own.
I'll be honest, I don't think this one will stick with me for very long, but I was also not the target audience. The intensity and passion of the family dynamics is going to resonate with so many readers! The facts that Betty is blue matters almost none when compared to the story of how her family navigates turmoil of any kind and the impacts of the secrets they all keep. The writing is beautiful, the pacing is great, I have no critiques whatsoever; it's just not a story meant for someone with so little in the way of family connections.
**Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the eARC**
I'm so glad that I read THE SKIN AND ITS GIRL. This book is strange and stunning. One of those books that, when you find out it’s a debut, stuns you. It’s so many things, and I’m still impressed, months after having read it, by how confidently Cypher conveys and explores them all. SKIN is epic in its construction of a mythology of sorts of the exiled Rummani family, anchored in blue soap and later the blue skin of a baby girl, following it from Palestine to the Pacific West Cost across generations. It’s intimate both in feel (Cypher uses direct address storytelling: Betty speaks directly to her deceased aunt) and in its focus on the interior lives of four of the Rummani women. Grandmother, aunt, mother, daughter. Nothing about it is straightforward, grounded as it is in oral storytelling traditions, such as nonlinear narrative and fables. We, like Betty, are looking for answers, for understanding in the revelations of Aunt Nuha’s journal. And it all comes together so, so beautifully.
Fantastic read! The LGBTQIA+ rep is palpable with this one. I feel as if the author created a beautiful space for SO MUCH queer representation. I was here for every step of the way.
The Skin and Its Girl is a creative feat, a unique novel even within its genre, literary fiction, a genre well known for its diversity and breadth. Perhaps for that reason, this is a novel for a selective reader, one who does not possess fixed expectations or a very firm hold on the physics of reality.
This is a book of metaphors. It is literary fluid.
The novel revolves around the existence of a girl who should not exist, a girl with blue skin. It is an epistolary novel, written by the girl to her aunt, a woman who has functioned as her mother, guardian, defender. The blue-skinned baby is born into a world, her personal individual world is marked by the disintegrating relationship of a man and woman, her father and mother. Much of the novel revolves around their sheltering of their child and the tensions produced by varying relatives’ opinions about the girl’s interaction with the world.
Being written from a child’s perspective, though in retrospect, the novel’s prose possesses a kind of surreal, dream-like quality. Conversations are sliced into snippets, images are partial and incomplete, events are smudged down to the primal feelings they invoked, much as things might be in memories. But — and this is where a mature, independent reader will find the novel intriguing — this incompleteness allows and challenges the reader to sift through these bits and pieces to find the connections that bind the protagonist to her aunt, to her mother, to the world at large “out there” that she is prevented from seeing.
I will leave it to the reader to see what becomes of this strange blue-skinned girl.
Overall, my review is a mixed one; its creativity is singular, but its delivery is difficult. Much of the story unfolds slowly and without a predetermined destination, yet, this mimics the life it documents — a life that is not meant to exist, has no purpose but to simply be and by being is an affront to others’ sense of being.
this book is beautifully written. With lush prose told through multiple generations, Cypher explores what it means to find "home" while staying true to our identity. definitely a more vibe less plot type of book, but I find the explorations of identity compelling
Thank you Sarah Cypher, Ballantine, and NetGalley for this arc in exchange for my honest review!
I thought the writing in this book was beautiful. There were so many themes discussed and I thought they were well done. I did think there would be more magical realism, but there wasn’t and that’s fine. I did find the pacing to be off and it made the book feel way longer than it was. It was a good book, I just don’t think it was the right book for me.