Natalie is uncomfortable in herself—in her skin, in her choices and her mind. Attempting to get out of her head, she decides to pack her bags. All in the hope of leaving her job behind, and getting to know herself. However, the isolation, her mind, and unfamiliarity end up spiralling her more out of control.
I received Skin by E.M. Reapy in this month’s Books That Matter Subscription box. A feminist book box that wants to bring female-led fiction and empowerment to women worldwide. (not an affiliate, or an AD, just something I genuinely love).
“No, Natalie. You’re a young woman, and you need to spread your wings.”“That’s okay. I like it here.”
Skin is a thought-provoking and relatable book which deals with some topics such as an eating disorder (self-destructive eating), low-confidence, anxious thoughts, dementia. Natalie is someone who many can look at and see parts of themselves in. She’s a person who often doesn’t see their own worth, and yet is also strong and capable.
We meet Natalie, an ex-teacher from Ireland, while she is travelling. She is someone who is unsure of flattery, even when abroad, and when flirted with it confuses her. As Natalie doesn’t think highly of herself. She jumps around in countries, and as she gets more stressed, the more she eats, feeding the hatred she already has for herself. The people she interacts with are different but recognisable—often able to find someone in our own lives these people could be related to.
When she returns to Ireland, there is a shift in prose as well as in Natalie. I was almost left wondering if the author’s point was to have us be a little annoyed by Natalie when she was travelling. It comes across as if she is trying to Eat, Pray, Love—but failing. However, when she returns to Ireland, not only am I more in love with her, she is also much more endearing.
Natalie ends up working in a gym/fitness studio and begins to enjoy spin classes. While she still has a severe disconnect with her appearance, she lets go and tries to do something new.
My favourite thing about the book is Natalie’s relationship with herself—making all the other relationships, for me, secondary. When we first meet her, she hate-eats to make herself feel better, but it ends up making her feel worse. Her food issues are often revisited, and something she continuously struggles to get under control. Which I really loved reading, her struggle is so human, it makes you fall in love with her a little more each time.
“A kaleidoscope of images and sounds inundate my mind coaches of my childhood leaving me on the bench, reluctantly being picked for a team by peers at a lunchtime game, people laughing when I ran, the nicknames, my secondary school PE teacher’s contempt when I brought a note from Mam saying I wouldn’t be able to participate. My kneeling-down, tear-stricken pleas to Mam on school mornings to write those notes excusing me from sports. I chew on the inside of my cheek and think of the girl I was.”
Her innocence, compassion, and can-do attitude are what spurred me to keep reading. I loved how she developed over the book, and while the undertone of her low-confidence remained, at times she had enough of a handle on it for it not to slip into an annoyance.
There were a few parts of the story I wish had been expanded, such as the meeting with Julian. I felt it ended so quickly, and while I can imagine this was due to it being a ‘holiday-romance’, I felt a momentary disconnect due to the suddenness.
This does happen on occasion with the sudden ending of individual chapters and would liken this book to a collection of biographical essays in the form of fiction.
Overall, Skin by E.M. Reapy is an excellent book that deep dives into self-discovery. It’s evocative, emotional and profound, with reliable themes and human behaviours and choices all can find themselves in. The ending is feel-good and satisfying, even if we leave Natalie at a sudden point.
I rated this four stars out of five and would recommend it to many of my friends.
Buy Skin by E.M. Reapy here on Amazon (AF)