“Skinless is a revelation. Skinless is also a revolution—of survival. In a word, Skinless is a stunner.”
I have read 25 novels per year for the past 40 years, more or less. I never wrote a review until now. One type of novel I seek out are author’s first novels. So, I dove into Maggie Moor’s first novel with an open mind and limited expectations – but by the end of the prologue, I had to pause.
“Whoa, this does not feel like a first novel, who the heck is Maggie Moor?” — Google “Maggie Moor” and you uncover an actress, a Jazz Singer, an elite Fitness model competitor and a licensed psychoanalyst working with people who have been traumatized or addicted. Then it dawns on you, the author of this book is all four of those people plus, now, an author. Best I can tell, this is not sequential, Ms. Moor is living all of these lives simultaneously.
OK. That helped. This is no typical first time novelist.
Back to the book. Within the first few pages, the reader instinctively understands that this book is crafted like “The Catcher in the Rye” and “The Bell Jar” in the sense that we realize that the main character is narrating their own story. Neither Salinger, or Plath or Maggie Moor overtly tells the reader that the “voice” telling their story has arrived somewhere on the other side of the plot that is about to unfold but the reader grasps this right away.
Ms. Moor has taken this technique to a much more intense place than I have ever experienced before as a reader. Whereas Holden Caulfield and Esther Greenwood are recalling a chaotic time in their life with a single voice that benefits from time and reflection; Charmay in “Skinless” is showing us all of the voices inside her head and using sentences that are jumpy and twisting and convoluted in the way that our minds work in real time. Charmay’s “narration” is raw and instant and complicated. Salinger and Plath give us wonderfully crafted sentences. Ms. Moor gives us chaotic, broken sentences that have no benefit of reflection – she gives us a real internal voice and Ms. Moor is relentlessly consistent about this until the epilogue.
Did you ever wish you could read the mind of a beautiful and complicated woman in real time while you were in the room with her? Hah! Be careful what you wish for because Maggie Moor is the genie that somehow made that wish come true.
This is a thrilling and realistic story about living on the edge in New York City in the 1990’s told by a very compelling woman who is drop dead gorgeous and intelligent but otherwise a victim of mental and physical abuse that got dumped into the streets with only her wits to survive and she is very busy doing just that – surviving amidst the chaos of the streets and the chaos in her mind. Charmay has invented “Cindy” who is a successful stripper at those high-end gentleman’s clubs that sprang to life all over NYC in the 1990’s. It’s a great story with compelling characters but I did not write my first review ever because of that.
I wrote this review because this story is told entirely from inside the mind of Charmay, crafted in the moment, thinking and reacting in real time, using multiple voices (not personalities, except for Cindy, just voices) that comprise her very complicated personality and character. This is a writing exercise that would intimidate an author writing their 10th novel but Ms. Moor has pulled off this legerdemain gracefully, compassionately and compellingly. That’s why serious readers need to read this novel. “
Strap Yourself in for a Wild Ride
This book is a hidden gem, apparently a debut work from author Maggie Moor. A story of a young woman Charmay who is raised in a dysfunctional family and sexual abuse from her drunken stepfather which left her jaded with very cynical view of men. This is a narrative in the first person of how she survived raising herself up from the streets of San Franciso and New York City, maneuvering a relationship triangle between her husband who is the local weed kingpin (this took place between the late 90s and early 2000s long before it was legal) who dreams of one day achieving his dream as a famous silver screen actor and a decrepit, rich, clueless old simp who patroned the gentleman’s club where should earn her living dancing. Captivated by her sexual prowess and charm, he would pay her money and buy her high end items simply for just her company. A series of events unfold as things go awry and tension mounts, situations explode.
This is undoubtedly a sharp deviation of what you would expect in a typical crime novel as Maggie Moor’s style of prose has a lyrical and poetic flow that seems to almost emerge from a stream of consciousness that is evocative of beat generation writers like Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs with the New York City style grit of Jim Carroll. The word play demonstrated throughout this work is phenomenal.
The author takes you deep into the thought process of the main protagonist, who is sharp witted, resourceful, and dangerous. She can feign sweetness to obtain what she wants from a man but has the ability to spit venom that can emasculate one in the bat of an eyelash. She goes deep into the character’s family background, her opinion of her world, her surrounding extensive knowledge on various subjects from street survival, film and music production, to the art of studying gems. Goes into such deep description of characters and events that you can almost taste it.
The author of this book has the ability to bore into your psyche, pull you into the scenes and force you to feel what the characters are going through. I look forward to reading her future works.”
SKINLESS takes place in New York City at the turn of the millennium. The plot combines elements of gritty TV drama (The Sopranos, Dexter, Ray Donovan) against a backdrop of small-time drug dealing and violence. Skinless tells the story of Charmay, a female survivor of sex abuse and teenage homelessness who is caught in the grip of alcohol addiction. The reader follows her journey as she struggles to find her identity while trying to make it in the entertainment industry in New York City. She becomes entangled in a web of romance, passion, money, manipulation, and longing for intimacy. Skinless becomes a strange evocation of the turn of the 21st century in America—the times we live in and the forces we live by—a real-life portrayal of a world gone off its orbit.
Get to know Maggie Moor’s book SKINLESS