by Maggie Moor
Skinless is the story of a twenty three year old woman named Charmay who is struggling with the consequences of having left home as a teenager in New Jersey and spent the next era of her life as a homeless rebel, hitchhiking her way across the States, Northern California, and Oregon. She’s run by her passions for music, creativity, acting, and sex, which refuse to fulfill her in the end. Back in New York City, Sam Black, her new Cuban-American boyfriend, struggles to overcome his criminal record and bad business deals. Charmay meets up with him on the corner of Broadway, where he’s trying to stay clean and sober and sell his script to some Hollywood bigwigs. Charmay and Sam move in together. At first they try to establish their acting careers in New York and take a fast trip to Las Vegas to get married, but Sam soon finds himself relapsing on heroin and dealing drugs, again being screwed by his business partners. Charmay, working as a stripper known as Cindy, meets a Wall Street guy Rex Revan one night in the club. He offers to finance a gig for her. He arranges for Cindy to sing at the Lucky Strike nightclub. Charmay brings Sam along, but tells Rex he’s her brother Mitch in from LA. Charmay gets her big break singing at the club. The new relationship with Rex causes problems with husband Sam, after Rex buys Charmay an expensive ring. An episode of domestic violence ensues. Sam is taken into custody. Charmay relents and lets him come home. In a final scene between Rex and Cindy in a room at the Peninsula Hotel, Rex reveals that he’s discovered Cindy’s real name and dark history as a stripper and that Mitch is really Sam her husband. She’s out in the cold, but decides it’s time to move on from Sam.
The double character of Charmay/Cindy carry the story. In the teenage Charmay, we get the mind-set of a tough kid who has been through a nightmare but maintains her strength. Sam, the son of Cuban immigrants, is a guy who’s made a few wrong turns in life, but a man with a plan and a very big dream for the screenplay he’s going to sell one day. Rex is as revolting a Harvard-educated Wall Street pirate as has ever been captured in print – think of the TV business broadcaster Larry Kudlow. Charmay’s sister Wanda and brother Aidan come in from LA and Harlem to rescue Charmay. Other characters are Eric and Jess, two more scheming, unsettling guys maneuvering to score in the drug business. Charmay’s mother is a thoroughly exasperating and vapid woman.
The language in Skinless moves from normal expository prose to jargon to the idiosyncratic vocabulary and disjunctive thought processes of Charmay’s inner world. The way the book is written reminds the reader that nothing is linear, and begins with a Jung quote, “In each of us there is another whom we do not know.” As Charmay says herself, “Now, I don’t wanna lose you, all my jumping around from present tense to past to present. I’m not here to teach you nothing, but Native Americans say, “past, present, future, all happening at once, inside us.” (p.49)
Though Skinless has a dark tone, there is hope – if only in the click of Charmay’s stiletto heels on the pavement at the end of the book as she leaves, we hope, the chaos behind her.
Skinless: The Story of a Female Survivor, Austin Macauley Publishing, February 26, 2021.
Austin Macauley Publishers, LLC.
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