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Set in the turbulent 1970s when Patty Hearst became Tanya the Revolutionary, Hystera is a timeless story of madness, yearning, and identity. After a fatal accident takes her father away, Lillian Weill blames herself for the family tragedy. Tripping through failed love affairs with men, and doomed friendships, all Lilly wants is to be sheltered from reality. She retreats from the outside world into a world of delusion and the private terrors of a New York City Psychiatric Hospital. Unreachable behind her thick wall of fears, the world of hospital corridors and strangers become a vessel of faith. She is a foreigner there until her fellow patients release her from her isolation with the power of human intimacy. How do we know who we really are? How do we find our true selves under the heavy burden of family and our pasts? In an unpredictable portrait of mental illness, Hystera penetrates to the pulsing heart of the questions.


“In language with the wild power of accuracy, Hystera maps a path through the landscape of trauma and illness, the feverish news of the seventies, and a character’s own indelibly vivid imagery of alarm and comfort. An eye-opening novel.
-Joan Silber, author of Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories, finalist for the National Book Award

“Hystera is a haunting, mesmerizing story of madness, longing and identity, set against one of the most fascinating times in NYC history. Skolkin-Smith’s alchemy is to inhabit her characters even as she crafts a riveting story that is nothing short of brilliant.”

Caroline Leavitt, “New York Times” bestselling author of Pictures of You

“Inside a psychiatric ward in the 1970s, Leora Skolkin-Smith’s Hystera takes you on a ride through the wilderness of a young woman’s emotional trauma and breakdown, and seizes upon the intricacies of mental health, our phobias, and fears around it. Brilliantly envisioned, this story of passion, and familial dysfunction, bears witness to an exquisite reknitting of a young woman’s soul, told in language that is brave, startling and ultimately tender and wise.”
—Jessica Keener, author of Night Swim

“Leora Skolkin-Smith’s novel Hystera is an unforgettable story of mental illness. Set in the New York City of the 1970’s, the book is told in precise language that sears the characters into your consciousness.”
—”Largehearted Boy”

“Leora Skolkin-Smith’s new novel, “Hystera,” provides a very vivid sense of being in the head of someone having a psychotic breakdown, and is a powerfully useful reference book for dealing with the mental-health system. It also pungently evokes the gritty New York of the ’70s.”
—Robert Whitcomb, reviewer “The Providence Journal”

“I loved this book because it was about a writer, of course. But I also loved it because of the writing itself – the amazing techniques that can be observed – learned from – if the reader doesn’t get too caught up in the forward motion of the story and the tone of the book not to pay attention.”
–Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Red Room

“One of those novels that gets you in the first few sentences; you know you are in for something completely unique and interesting in only a few seconds…. A great and interesting read for sure, and one I highly recommend.”
–”Veronica MD”

“Someone once said that literature is either weighty and wise or interesting and captivating. Skolkin-Smith puts this to rest in HYSTERA. Lilly is a student in the 1970’s at Sarah Lawrence College who experiences her life slip away from her in short mental breaks. One night she swallows too many pills mixed with alcohol and then checks herself into the psychiatric ward at the state hospital. What follows there is a collage of sights, feelings and sounds as Lilly attempts to both fit in with the patient yet keep some part of herself essentially separate. Lilly parents are both alive and the mother figures very heavily in her illness though it is only hinted at until Lilly is unable to avoid her at random meetings. As Lilly journeys (sometimes very unwillingly) back to a healthy state, she alternates between fear of herself, fear of her body that strangely border on paranoid regarding others’ intention towards her and a stubborn belief that she deserves punishment for a tragic occurrence many years prior. This book is a tragically beautiful reminder of how fragile mental health really is.”
–Amal Chabaan “Ragmag, An International Magazine of Arts and Culture”

“I highly recommend this book. The writing is outstanding and I was completely hooked from the very start until the end…. It’s a short but powerful read that will stick with you and have you thinking about it long after you have finished the book.”
–”Life in Review”

“Leora Skolkin-Smith has written a fascinating novel about one woman’s descent into mental illness and her struggle to feel whole. This is a haunting and poignant look… I recommend this book to anyone interested in mental illness and people fighting to overcome it.”
-“The House of Seven Tails”

“This is a book that will leave you thinking about Lillian for days after. You will not be disappointed!”-
-“A Bookish Way of Life”

“Hystera is a truly unique, painfully honest portrayal of one young woman’s battle with intimacy and ultimately, acceptance of one’s actions. Told directly by the patient herself, the reader gets a front row view of an incredibly sick and damaged young woman. The path she takes to recovery is an incredibly rewarding one, a story that will be long savored in my soul. This is a book that I feel won’t be understood and appreciated by all, but one that affected me like no other. Highly recommended.”
people fighting to overcome it.”-“Jenn’s Bookshelf”