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"The Lightness could be the love child of Donna Tartt and Tana French, but its savage, glittering magic is all Emily Temple’s own." —Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists 

A Most Anticipated Novel by Marie Claire Elle • WSJ. Magazine • Glamour • Vulture • Bustle • Buzzfeed • The Millions • The Philadelphia Inquirer • The Daily Beast • Refinery 29Publishers Weekly • Literary Hub • Electric Literatureand more!

A stylish, stunningly precise, and suspenseful meditation on adolescent desire, female friendship, and the female body that shimmers with rage, wit, and fierce longing—an audacious, darkly observant, and mordantly funny literary debut for fans of Emma Cline, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Jenny Offill.

One year ago, the person Olivia adores most in the world, her father, left home for a meditation retreat in the mountains and never returned. Yearning to make sense of his shocking departure and to escape her overbearing mother—a woman as grounded as her father is mercurial—Olivia runs away from home and retraces his path to a place known as the Levitation Center.

Once there, she enrolls in their summer program for troubled teens, which Olivia refers to as “Buddhist Boot Camp for Bad Girls”. Soon, she finds herself drawn into the company of a close-knit trio of girls determined to transcend their circumstances, by any means necessary. Led by the elusive and beautiful Serena, and her aloof, secretive acolytes, Janet and Laurel, the girls decide this is the summer they will finally achieve enlightenment—and learn to levitate, to defy the weight of their bodies, to experience ultimate lightness. 

But as desire and danger intertwine, and Olivia comes ever closer to discovering what a body—and a girl—is capable of, it becomes increasingly clear that this is an advanced and perilous practice, and there’s a chance not all of them will survive. Set over the course of one fateful summer that unfolds like a fever dream, The Lightness juxtaposes fairy tales with quantum physics, cognitive science with religious fervor, and the passions and obsessions of youth with all of these, to explore concepts as complex as faith and as simple as loving people—even though you don’t, and can’t, know them at all.

About the Author


Emily Temple was born in Syracuse, New York. She earned a BA from Middlebury College and an MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns fellow and the recipient of a Henfield Prize. Her short fiction has appeared in Colorado Review, Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, Indiana Review, Fairy Tale Review, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is a senior editor at Literary Hub. This is her first novel.

Praise For…


“Emily Temple’s debut The Lightness grants us a bold, smart, hilarious new voice. She tells a page-turning story that’s also a detective story—psychologically wise and totally wiseassed, all while being both cynical and spiritual. A classic must read!”
Mary Karr, New York Times bestselling author of Lit

“Emily Temple’s sentences are extraordinary: musical, bristling with animal intelligence, feline in their tensed sinuosity, their lack of the usual loyalties, their readiness to pounce. This remarkable novel is made up of equal parts desire and dread; it constantly surprised me, eerily outpacing my expectations. The Lightness is a glorious debut.”
Garth Greenwell, award-winning author of What Belongs to You

“Emily Temple has woven a darkly funny, luminously drawn mystery that hits bullseye after bullseye of language and emotion. The Lightness is a book I didn't know I needed and now can't stop thinking about: swift, surprising, and utterly captivating.”
Téa Obreht, New York Times bestselling author of Inland and The Tiger’s Wife

“With dark, stylish prose and a group of teenage girls up to no good, The Lightness could be the love child of Donna Tartt and Tana French, but its savage, glittering magic is all Emily Temple’s own. Wrought by myth and mysticism, taut with desire and obsession, this debut looks unflinchingly at the nature of human being—and asks whether such constraints can be transcended. The Lightness is a book with fangs.”

Chloe BenjaminNew York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists

"Who can resist a novel about a Buddhist Boot Camp for Bad Girls? This debut is funny, whip-smart and transcendently wise about friendship, family, lust and love."
Jenny Offill, New York Times bestselling author of Weather and Dept. of Speculation

“The breeziest book . . . in a good way . . .  A smart but nervous girl who maintains a propulsive inner monologue that evokes Emma Cline’s The Girls and a group of eccentric and bizarre young people that channels Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.”
WSJ. Magazine, The Nine Best New Books to Read This Spring

"A nimble and intelligent coming-of-age story, distinguished by a setting that offers extraordinary pleasures, and sumptuous prose. The Lightness is part thriller, part fairytale, in the tradition of writers like Emily St. John Mandel and Lydia Millet.”
Kelly Link, award-winning author of Get in Trouble


“A complex, psychological study of a young woman haunted by her past—and her capacity to hunger for violence and self-destruction . . . A dark, glittering fable about the terror of desire.” 
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Emily Temple’s debut novel is 100 percent bingeable—I read carefully enough to soak it all in, but fast, because it’s so hard to put down. . . . The Lightness addresses power dynamics, female friendships, and bodies in a coming-of-age tale.”
Tricycle: The Buddhist Review 

If you’re a fan of Emma Cline, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Jenny Offill, give this one a shot.”
Glamour, The Best Books of 2020

“An elegant and entertaining debut novel. A mystery disguised as a coming-of-age story . . . This is one of those books that breaks your heart when it’s over.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Product Details
ISBN: 9780062905321
ISBN-10: 0062905325
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 16th, 2020
Pages: 288
Language: English

The Lightness: A Novel (Hardcover)