Skin Room

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Pedlar Press, 2008 - Fiction - 387 pages
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The sharply realized scenes in Skin Room, Sara Tilley's remarkable debut novel, alternate between Sanikiluaq, Northwest Territories (now Nunavut), and St. John's, Newfoundland; between 12-year-old Teresa Norman's crash into Inuit culture and her later life as a 23-year-old adult in the harrowing final phase of coping with the tragedy of her year in Sanikiluaq. She is an innocent victim of severe cultural misunderstanding. Nobody to blame, widespread suffering. With panache, Teresa writes her way into the events leading up to and away from the trauma. "If you love words, they'll never desert you," she says. "They will always be there, waiting patiently in their ordered pages. I can re-read the same books over and over and be surprised, every time, by some detail or nuance that didn't appear before. . . . Always, it seems, the story . . . has changed and I've remained constant, when, really, the object is an object, a thing unchanging, and it is I who continue to metamorphose. My heart. My tongue." Only the best books invite re-reading, of course, those by writers who both love words and know how to work them. The writing in Skin Room, both the voices of precocious 12-year-old Teresa and her sophisticated older self, is straightforward and yet as memorably evocative as poetry. Whether Sara Tilley is describing the mores of Inuit schoolchildren or the contemporary downtown St. John's arts scene, she carries a reader close, every step of the way. Skin Room is one of those novels one wants to re-read because it grabs and never lets go. The novel is hilarious at times, despite the heart-rending central event and aftermath. Coming of age has not been more searingly rendered. Skin Room is the work of a formidable new talent.

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About the author (2008)

Sara Tilley's writing spans the genres of playwriting, prose and poetry. She has written, co written or co-created over ten plays to date. Skin Room, her first novel, won both the 2004 Newfoundland and Labrador Percy Janes First Novel Award and the inaugural Fresh Fish Award for Emerging Writers in 2006. Sara has also received several Newfoundland Arts and Letters Awards for playwriting, prose and poetry, and her work has been published in TickleAce and Zeugma Magazine, and featured on CBC Radio. Sara is a graduate of the BFA Acting Program at York University. Her artistic work bridges writing, theatre, and Pochinko Clown Through Mask technique, with each discipline informing and inspiring the others. In 2002, she founded a feminist theatre company, She Said Yes!, and in 2006 received the Rhonda Payne Theatre Award in 2006, which acknowledges the contribution of a woman working in theatre in Newfoundland and Labrador. The balancing act between her life as a writer as well as an actor, clown, director and designer continues to be a joyful and necessary challenge. Sara was born in St. John's, but spent most of her childhood in rural and isolated communities. Her work is inspired by sense memories of life in Brigus South, Newfoundland, Nain, Labrador and Sanikiluaq, in what is now Nunavut. She currently lives in St. John's with her partner, Craig, and their cat.

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