Self-Portrait with Boy: Book summary and reviews of Self-Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon

Self-Portrait with Boy

by Rachel Lyon

Self-Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon X
Self-Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2018
    384 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A compulsively readable and electrifying debut about an ambitious young female artist who accidentally photographs a boy falling to his death - an image that could jumpstart her career, but would also devastate her most intimate friendship.

Lu Rile is a relentlessly focused young photographer struggling to make ends meet. Working three jobs, responsible for her aging father, and worrying that the crumbling warehouse she lives in is being sold to developers, she is at a point of desperation. One day, in the background of a self-portrait, Lu accidentally captures on film a boy falling past her window to his death. The photograph turns out to be startlingly gorgeous, the best work of art she's ever made. It's an image that could change her life…if she lets it.

But the decision to show the photograph is not easy. The boy is her neighbors' son, and the tragedy brings all the building's residents together. It especially unites Lu with his beautiful grieving mother, Kate. As the two forge an intense bond based on sympathy, loneliness, and budding attraction, Lu feels increasingly unsettled and guilty, torn between equally fierce desires: to use the photograph to advance her career, and to protect a woman she has come to love.

Set in early 90s Brooklyn on the brink of gentrification, Self-Portrait with Boy is a provocative commentary about the emotional dues that must be paid on the road to success, a powerful exploration of the complex terrain of female friendship, and a brilliant debut from novelist Rachel Lyon.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. In her gripping first novel, Lyon sympathetically portrays Lu's struggle." - Booklist

"Lyon's candid, adroit debut follows a young artist's disturbing journey to find an audience ... written in raw, honest rose, this is an affecting and probing moral tale about an artist choosing to advance her work at the expense of her personal relationships." - Publisher's Weekly

"Haunting ... Fearless and sharp." - Kirkus

"A subtly elegiac yet fierce look at the blurred boundaries between life and art, loyalty and morality." - Chicago Review of Books

"Rachel Lyon has written a haunting tale of how a singular, devastating event in the life of a young woman photographer changes the trajectory of her life and comes to define her utterly. Beautifully imagined and flawlessly executed." - Joyce Carol Oates

"Rachel Lyon navigates a spectrum of loyalty and betrayal like a tightrope-walker, with all of the attendant suspense. A life-changing moral choice powers this atmospheric novel which shows what can happen when you do what scares you most." - Amy Hempel

"Self-Portrait With Boy captures the furious beauty of a vanished New York, an irresistible whirlwind of passion, violence, love, struggle, and above all else, art. Rachel Lyon paints an unforgettable portrait of a true art monster - a young woman hellbent on pursuing greatness, no matter the cost." - Robin Wasserman, author of Girls on Fire

"A formidable novel, equal parts ghost story, love story, and riveting Bildungsroman. Full of big ideas about art and love and ambition, with prose so vivid it gives off sparks - this debut won me over completely. Chilling and beautiful, just like the work of the artist at the heart of the story." - Julie Buntin, author of Marlena

"I read Rachel Lyon's sharp and achingly beautiful novel about art and fame and loneliness and death in a frenzy, full of a deep and urgent need. With this gorgeous debut, Lyon will unravel you and then stitch you together again as something entirely new." - Manuel Gonzales, author of The Miniature Wife and Other Stories

"Self-Portrait with Boy is a remarkable debut, fierce and passionate and perfectly crafted with surefire prose and ambition to spare. It will fill you with inspiration and longing." - Ivy Pochoda, author of Visitation Street

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Author Information

Rachel Lyon

Rachel Lyon's short stories have appeared in Joyland, Iowa Review, and Saint Ann's Review, among other publications. She attended Princeton and Indiana University, where she was fiction editor of Indiana Review. She currently teaches fiction at Sackett Street Writers Workshop, Catapult, Slice, and elsewhere, and is a cofounder and cohost of the reading series Ditmas Lit. Self-Portrait with Boy is her first novel. Visit Rachel at RachelLyon.work.

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