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Skin Deep

Skin Deep

By Diana Wagman
Paperback : 9781578060993, 252 pages, November 1998

A haunting novel that explores the human compulsion to be beautiful


Wanted: Woman to talk to. Three nights a week. Three hundred dollars a night.

Skin Deep is about the unusual young woman who answers this ad. Martha Ward is twenty-eight, an ex-topless waitress, and part-time mother of an eight-year-old. She drives to Malibu for her new job and discovers she must dress entirely in—body, hand, hair, even face, completely covered—and talk to a man named Dr. Hamilton. He wants to talk about beauty.

This startling novel depicts the compelling and poignant story of a young woman's obsession with her looks. Defining herself by the reactions of the various and unforgettable men in her life—her father who speaks only in aphorisms and platitudes, her pyromaniacal stepfather, her dramatically different boyfriend—Martha becomes more and more absorbed in the demands of being physically attractive. Through their eyes, she begins to see her life of solitude and independence as one of loneliness and desperate routine.

Only in her nightly sessions with the remarkable but deeply disturbed Dr. Hamilton can she gain control of her own point of view. Only with the one man who cannot see her, can she learn to see herself.

Skin Deep is Diana Wagman's first novel. She writes with deep feeling and with an accurate tough. As she examines Martha Ward's compulsion to be beautiful, she strikes a nerve so responsive that many readers will wince. Wagman's intense but sensitive exploration of Martha Ward's fixation with outward beauty focuses on a painful subject that affects many women.