Barb is part of a group of friends with artistic inclinations, several working professionally in the arts, all with the quirkiness that is so often linked with creative types. But soon we learn that this isn’t ordinary quirkiness. Barb is a stunning beauty who is so afraid that her looks have negative consequences that she wears a fat suit and a frizzy gray wig to conceal them. Penelope is a poor sculptor but has the remarkable ability to break pieces and reassemble them perfectly. Lily is a pianist and composer whose music is capable of manipulating people who hear it, making them view ugly things as beautiful or creating a desire for things they don’t have. Their lives are also complicated in ways that are out of the ordinary, with Barb continually harassed by an insulting doorman and Lily so despondent over an unrequited love that the sadness of her music threatens to make her disappear - literally.
The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty is a strange, funny, wildly creative novel full of allegory and social criticism. As the friends go out of their way to protect each other from an unkind world, their strange talents get even more bizarre, and questions about beauty become even more pointed. What does it mean to be beautiful or ugly? How does beauty affect those who observe it? What does beauty even mean, if its definition can be manipulated and changed? Page-turning, clever and provocative. - Michelle W. (Sunset)