Epeolatry Book Review: The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley


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Title: The Loosening Skin
Author: Aliya Whiteley
Genre: Weird Fiction
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 23rd Feb, 2021 (reprint)

Synopsis: Rose Allington is a bodyguard for celebrities, and she suffers from a rare disease. Her moults come quickly, changing everything about her life, who she is, who she loves, who she trusts.

In a world where people shed their skin, it’s a fact of life that we move on and cast off the attachments of our old life. But those memories of love can be touched – and bought – if you know the right people.

Rose’s former client, superstar actor Max Black, is hooked on Suscutin, a new wonderdrug that prevents the moult. Max knows his skins are priceless, and moulting could cost him his career.

When one of his skins is stolen, and the theft is an inside job, Max needs the best who ever worked for him – even if she’s not the same person.

Includes an exclusive short story set in the world of The Loosening Skin.

Ever hear the cliché, beauty is only skin deep? The author’s premise asks, what if love were only skin deep? Though dark and sad, this was a love story. And it centered around all things love: unrequited, self, selfless, detached, sexually based attraction, and unconditional. 

In my mind, true love lasts forever. Sexually based attraction is lust. Self-love changes as we change. So as I read, I kept thinking—if the love was real, then it would last regardless of a moult because love is not a feeling or an emotion. The act of caring and giving to someone else. Having someone’s best interest and wellbeing as a priority in your life. To truly love is a very selfless act. 

But this is fiction, and Whiteley’s unique story falls under the weird fiction genre. Her tale belongs to Rose. In the novel’s first half, Rose’s present is told in first person present tense, and her past (backstory) in third person past tense (the chapters are titled with a time stamp to help follow the narrative). The second part of the novel encompasses Rose’s future through the eyes of a secondary narrator—Mikhael Stuck. The narrative jumps around, but like reading a classic or another language or a foreign idea, I quickly got used to it. 

This quote sums up Rose’s perspective about moulting:

If only other emotions were lost in the moult. Fear, pain, guilt, sadness: why must these remain? Some people say it’s because those emotions are true, lasting, while love could never survive for longer. But I think love is the strongest feeling of all, and that’s why it has to die, and be sloughed away. Otherwise it could kill us. I remember how I would’ve taken a bullet for Max, or murdered someone who threatened him. Surely I’m better off without those false feelings. 

Why are skins like this? We’re never told in Rose’s world—they just are. With Rose, a new skin equals a new life—the old one’s personality and emotions end. She looks the same, but isn’t. She remembers the transition, but not the emotional attachments. 

This is one of those rare books that on the surface sounds unrelatable, until you read it. What if you could shed your emotions like a snake sheds its skin? A fresh start. You wouldn’t miss those emotions because they’re gone. What a relief, right? Or…maybe not. In Whitley’s novel some people save their skins, and those feelings can be awakened when the old skins are touched. 

Interesting, thought provoking, and unusual, I give this 4 out of 5 stars.

Available from Bookshop and Amazon.

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