Glossing Leigh Stein's wellness satire SELF CARE

Maren and Devin are on a mission to empower women to live their best life. Richual, the wellness app they created and run together, is the first of its kind: a place for women to “cultivate the practice of self-care and change the world by changing ourselves”. Rivalling Instagram, Richual’s members can be unapologetically vulnerable to an all-female community about their traumas, and can purchase any number of #selfcare products to help them along their #journey.

Glossier boy-brows, chaturanga yoga, nutritional gummy bears and ayahuasca retreats. Sweat-proof cream eyeshadow for spin class and discounted, ethically-sourced lip fillers. “MALE TEARS” mugs and “Namaslay” T-shirts. Provocative content designed to stimulate online ‘debate’. Influencers promote, advertisers target, women gossip and products sell. Richual is nothing but a feminist utopia.

So what happens when Evan, the app’s angel investor and Devin’s latest lover, is embroiled in a sexual misconduct trial? When Khadijah, Maren’s head of editorial and self-described ‘token WOC’ of the company, fears her request for maternity leave could risk her job? When Maren, Richual’s workaholic-alcoholic COO, drunkenly tweets something anti-feminist and provokes viral rage? Who does it prove Richual to truly be serving? What does ‘self care’ really mean?

Leigh Stein’s satirical novel SELF CARE is a comical critique of capitalism’s latest experiment: the wellness industry. As a retired executive director of the feminist organisation Out of the Binder, an online community for female empowerment in work, Stein herself intimately knows the subtle hypocrisies and exploitation that lies at the centre of monetising self-improvement. Set in the start-up offices and yoga studios of New York City, SELF CARE’s satirical exposé of the city’s obsession with image and wealth is like a millennial THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED story crossed with the unlikable narrator in Ottessa Moshfegh’s MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION. SELF CARE is a short, plot-driven novel with melodic scene changes and uncomplicated characters. As a TV adaptation, it would sit well somewhere between the bitchiness of GOSSIP GIRL, the corporatism of SUCCESSION, and the relatable realism of GIRLS.


Listen to Brad Listi's conversation with Leigh over on his OTHERPPL podcast.

Read the Los Angeles Times' review.

Watch Leigh introduce SELF CARE on Penguin Random House's YouTube.