Story Plant hardcover

ISBN: 978-1-61188-090-8

Fiction Studio Books e-book

ISBN: 978-1-61188-091-5

Publication date: September 10, 2013

194 pages

“Poetic, strange and evocative… A poignant prose-poem…”

— Publishers Weekly

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.

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.





Read an interview with Lilith Magazine here and with Caroline Leavitt here.
Read an essay on writing from Leora Skolkin-Smith here.

"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



Leora Skolkin-Smith

“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


"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, The Providence Journal


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

“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


“Tragically beautiful.”
– Ragmag

“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

“You can't help but be taken in with Lillian's story. I don't want to reveal too much, because I do believe that this a book you must experience for yourself.”
– A Bookish Way of Life


Hystera plunges me into Lilly’s world, lets me see it through her eyes, let’s me become Lilly and look at a world I’m not familiar with. It left me thinking of Lilly. Days later, I can’t get her out of my head.”
– Terry Marshall Fiction


“Leora Skolkin-Smith writes with a captivating intensity. It is hard to turn away from this book. The story is illuminating and heartbreaking. I recommend this book to everyone – even those who have never dealt with mental illness (but, seriously, who hasn't dealt with mental illness in some form?)”
– Jessica Blau, author of The Wonderbread Years

Hystera is a must-read…. A uniquely moving reading experience.”
– Like an Open Book

“Leora Skolkin-Smith has written a fascinating novel about one woman’s descent into mental illness and her struggle to feel whole.”

– The House of the Seven Tails

“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

"Skolkin-Smith’s alchemy is to inhabit her characters even as she crafts a riveting story that is nothing short of brilliant," said Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You. Reviewers and readers agree that Skolkin-Smith's work is a remarkable blend of literary mastery and profound observation. It is a combination that must be experienced to be fully appreciated.