Title: The Lightness
Author: Emily Temple
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 11th June 2020
One year ago, the person Olivia adores most in the world, her father, left home for a meditation retreat in the mountains and never returned. Yearning to make sense of his shocking departure, Olivia runs away from home and retraces his path to a place known as the Levitation Center.
There, she enrolls in their summer program for troubled teens, a ‘Buddhist Boot Camp for Bad Girls’, and finds herself drawn into the company of a close-knit trio of girls determined that this is the summer they will finally learn to levitate, to defy the weight of their bodies, to experience ultimate lightness.
But as desire and danger intertwine, and Olivia comes ever closer to discovering what a body – and a girl – is capable of, it becomes increasingly clear that this is an advanced and perilous practice, and there’s a chance not all of them will survive…
I was so curious about The Lightness as soon as I heard about it. The story follows Olivia, who arrives at a rehabilitation centre of sorts looking for her missing father who supposedly spent time there. The Levitation centre, which is isolated up in the mountains and surrounded by woodland operates within the principals of Buddhism. Olivia then becomes involved with a small clique of girls, Janet, Laurel and Serena who are on a secret mission to achieve levitation at any cost. Things become complicated and more and more dangerous as the book proceeds and Olivia tries to work out her feelings on love, lust, family and faith.
I really liked this book, it is quite strange and perhaps won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s a really interesting look at life and the different ways people choose to believe in some sort of higher power. I know very little about Buddhism so I found all the journeys into different aspects of it fascinating. The prose in The Lightness has a sort of otherworldly and ethereal quality to it which makes following the story feel natural and continually compelling. Olivia is an interesting character as she doesn’t seem to quite know who she is or what she is really looking for at The Levitation Centre. Her relationship with her father is an unusual one and he is a sort of ghostly figure all the way through the book. Her connection to the three girls is the one which drives the novel. Olivia becomes entranced in particular by Serena who is the sort of Queen Bee of the Centre. She is a powerful and captivating personality and pulls Olivia into her obsession with levitating.
There is a sense of unease from the start of The Lightness and the clique of girls often has a definite sinister feel to it which I found quite addictive. This is not a particularly easy book to explain because so much of it is based upon a kind of spirituality and atmosphere that surrounds these characters and the centre itself. The whole concept of levitation is so enthralling and I was holding my breath at times in anticipation as events progress to their strange crescendo. I really recommend The Lightness if you are in the mood for something a bit different and original. It is a wryly intelligent and mesmerising book which feels almost hypnotic at times – definitely worth reading as I think everyone will experience this book in a slightly different manner.
I received this e-arc through Netgalley. My review is my own honest opinion.