Praise for Layla

Layla is a poignant read about making sense of it all and the weight of reality.” —Midwest Book Review (Amazon)

The Huffington Post has named Layla to its list of “Best Books Just Out Or Coming Soon We Thought You Should Know About.”

Ellen Meeropol, author of House Arrest, praises Layla on her blog, Nov. 7, 2013

“I read a lot of fiction, and I particularly love novels with social justice themes, but somehow I missed LAYLA, a debut novel by Céline Keating (Plain View Press, 2011). Set in 2005, it’s the story of a young woman, Layla, whose mother has just died. The mother, whose lifelong political activism was not shared by her daughter, exacted a deathbed promise that Layla would follow her instructions to travel across the country, visiting the mother’s old friends and comrades from her activist past. The carrot was powerful: information about her long-missing, supposedly-dead father. 

I love novels that live on the fault lines of big political events and the lives of people caught up in those events, and that’s exactly what LAYLA does. The protagonist is young, disaffected, and disinterested in social justice. Her journey moved me enormously, and I believed in her confusion, her growing awareness, her anger. I loved her courage in facing what seemed like impossible contradictions between right and wrong.”

• Layla is included in Poets & Writers magazine’s roundup of “Great Summer Fiction Debuts,” July-August 2011


“In Céline Keating's auspicious debut, the political and the emotional collide, as one generation’s raison d’etre—the radical politics of the ’60s—becomes their offspring’s burden.  What results is a wrenching look at the human costs of activism and the resiliency of love.”

—Helen Schulman, author of A Day at the Beach
and This Beautiful Life

“A beautiful book—at once nostalgic and fresh—that will go straight to your heart and lodge there.”

—Alethea Black, author of I Knew You’d Be Lovely

“In Layla, Céline Keating has produced a fast-moving story of family secrets, political intrigue, and a young woman’s coming of age. Layla is a rare combination of a novel that is both suspenseful and insightful, narrated by a character who is charming, intelligent, appealing, and most importantly, honest. Her search for the truth about her father and for meaning in her own life is a gripping tale and a memorable read.”

—Con Lehane, author of Death at the Old Hotel

“Céline Keating’ first novel, Layla, takes a vivid and rueful look backward from the viewpoint of the daughter of a ’60s activist couple. Layla’s ambivalence toward her parents and their idealism is evoked in beautiful prose and telling details. The novel brings to life the complexity of family dynamics, with all its conflicts, dangers, and rewards. The reader travels with Layla as she searches to understand her past and present and comes out of the journey wiser.”

—Nahid Rachlin, author of the memoir Persian Girls and the novels Foreigner and Jumping Over Fire

“Layla’s story unfolds like a finely calibrated psychological mystery.  In her search for the truth of her parents’ past, she enters a world of subterfuge and danger, cold-hearted judgment and unexpected kindness.  With each new revelation about her past, Layla—the disaffected daughter of ’60s activists whose apolitical nature is matched only by her scorn for what she considers to be the antiquated passions of her parents—begins to peel open, onion-like, finding new respect for the powerful forces that shaped her, and developing passions of her own.  In Layla, Céline Keating has created an unforgettable character who is by turns exasperating, funny, courageous and fiercely loyal.  Layla’s journey toward understanding of her past and present evokes both the idealism and danger of the ’60s, which resonate to this day.”

—Susan Segal, author of Aria

“Céline Keating's deftly plotted novel takes readers on a gripping journey along the underground railroad of post-’60s radicalism. I fully empathized with Layla and her search for a father lost in history. Every adult has to reinterpret the story of her childhood. Keating beautifully demonstrates the courage it takes for each of us to face that bittersweet truth.”

—Larry Dark, Editor, The Story Prize

“As the Great American Nostalgia Machine works to convert the idealism and anger and, yes, the naiveté of the Sixties into a cartoon of funny hair and flowery shirts, Céline Keating’s novel, Layla, provides a strong antidote by sending her eponymous heroine on the road in quest of the realties of her parents’ past.  As Layla James drives cross-country, following the cryptic directions of her late mother, she meets a wide and sharply drawn group of veteran radicals who all play a part in the search for her mysterious father.  Is he alive or dead?  Was he an innocent or a criminal?  Were her parents who she thought they were?  Keating keeps the pace fast and the suspense high as Layla’s discoveries add up, bringing real change into her own young life.  You’ll want to ride with her every mile of the way!”

—Robert Hershon, editor, Hanging Loose Press, and author of twelve collections of poetry, most recently
Calls from the Outside World

“Céline Keating’s debut novel, Layla, is a triumph of political literature.  With mastery, Keating has fashioned a thrilling and moving tale of a young woman forced to discover the secret history of her family.  Set in contemporary time, Layla reaches back into the tumultuous 1960s.  It’s the perfect novel for anyone in search of a serious, compelling read, but Keating’s deep socio-political knowledge of the period, combined with her narrative skills of pacing and mystery, also makes this a perfect choice for American Studies courses; it is as informative as it is impossible to put down.”

—Marnie Mueller, author of Green Fires,
The Climate of the Country, and My Mother’s Island

“I love Layla. I will give this novel, a precious gift, to my friends whose psyches were shaped by the idealism, hope, and chaos of the “Sixties.” As a student of that period, I will also beg younger friends to read this emotional page-turner. Layla's coming to terms with her parents' dangerous activism is heart wrenching due to Keating’s delightfully drawn characters. This novel also serves as a compelling lesson in our values and how drastically they've changed. It serves as a better history than any essay or screed.”

—Susan Braudy, author of Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left

From Q, the Queens College Alumni magazine.

Read praise for Céline’s new novel, Play for Me here.