The Manicurist is Phyllis Schieber’s newest novel and what a captivating tale she has created with this work. This author isn’t new to me. I read Willing Spirits a few years ago and loved it and this novel is no different. Phyllis writes about women, about their relationships and she does it with finesse. In The Manicurist she takes us into the sometimes volatile world of mental illness and the damage it can do to everyone involved. This novel is at once as heart breaking as it is touching.
Tessa is a manicurist but that isn’t her only talent; she also has the ability to see into people’s lives, an ability she has had from a young girl. She has a family, her husband Walter and daughter Regina, and while they look like the perfect family on the outside they really aren’t underneath it all. Her husband has always been extremely uncomfortable with her being able to see things, with her past, with her family, and mostly he would just like it to all go away so they can live in peace. Yet life with Tessa has never really been peaceful because she has always had a huge piece missing – her mother left her when she was just a young girl.
Tessa’s mother Ursula was bi-polar consequently Tessa’s childhood was anything but normal. She lived in fear; always wondering when her mother’s next downward spiral would occur. For Tessa life revolved around living through the highs and lows of her mother’s moods. Then comes the day when tragedy strikes and her mother disappears. From them on life for Tessa is never the same. She always wonders why her mother left her, wasn’t she a good enough girl to keep her mother with her? This plagues Tessa and worse yet is the feeling that never leaves Tessa – that her mother is still alive somewhere.
Then one day a woman named Fran walks into the salon Tessa works in and nothing is ever the same again. There are decisions to be made, decisions that leave Tessa questioning everything about herself as a woman and as a mother. Tessa looks back on the past and relives various times in her childhood with her mother. She has to find forgiveness in herself or her mother in order to move on and forward in her life.
I found the characters in this novel quite complex. Then again, I find when stories deal with mental illness in any way that the characters seem more deep and developed to me. I really liked the character of Tessa who was so broken from her childhood yet yearning to be able to love her mother again. If you like novels that deal with mental illness and it’s effects along with a twist of some palm reading then The Manicurist is definitely a novel you should try!
I read The Manicurist by Phyllis Schieber for her book tour with Pump Up Your Book. You can see the other tour stops here and be sure to visit Phyllis’s website as well as finding her on Goodreads, Shelfari, Facebook and Twitter. Your own copy of The Manicurist can be purchased here in the US and here in Canada.
My copy of The Manicurist was received for review from Pump Up Your Book and the publisher.