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Recently having turned 40 and living in Toronto on a shoestring, Lilian Quick is trying to follow all the rules for self-promotion and personal enlightenment and negotiate the tricky, emerging overlap between the two. Since she was young, Lilian has seen animal auras , and her pet portrait work includes these glowing colors. Her attempts to grow her business can be painfully, hilariously bumbling (she often scolds herself for negative self-talk). But just as she’s poised to gain a larger audience thanks to a commission from Canada’s most famous female poet/skin-care entrepreneur, she is also invited to work at the Temple—the New York headquarters of spiritual self-help guru Eleven Novak, who happens to be Lilian’s cousin and childhood intimate. Since she has been following Eleven’s teachings anyway (“Live the way you love to feel” is one; you can get it on a phone case), and since that gig seems more likely to provide financial stability, Lilian says yes and finds herself dropped into the heart of the sausage-making factory. Lilian is a sponge for these teachings and wildly suggestible. Eleven is a class-A manipulator, and her business is a transparent pyramid scheme. But Selecky refuses to work strictly in tropes. What begins as a killer satire opens up to some messy ideas: Spiritual teachings can be mostly bunk but partly useful. Women are easy marks but that’s because they are rightfully hungry for empowerment. And Lilian herself has strange and lovely depths that she manages to plumb thanks to—or in spite of—the work.
A funny, tender, gimlet-eyed dive into the cult of self-improvement.