Sly, surprising, and razor-sharp, Natural Beauty follows a young musician into an elite, beauty-obsessed world where perfection comes at a staggering cost. Our narrator produces a sound from the piano no one else at the Conservatory can. She employs a technique she learned from her parents—also talented musicians—who fled China in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. But when an accident leaves her parents debilitated, she abandons her future for a job at a high-end beauty and wellness store in New York City.
Holistik is known for its remarkable products and procedures—from remoras that suck out cheap Botox to eyelash extensions made of spider silk—and her new job affords her entry into a world of privilege and gives her a long-awaited sense of belonging. She becomes transfixed by Helen, the niece of Holistik’s charismatic owner, and the two strike up a friendship that hazily veers into more. All the while, our narrator is plied with products that slim her thighs, smooth her skin, and lighten her hair. But beneath these creams and tinctures lies something sinister.
A piercing, darkly funny debut, Natural Beauty explores questions of consumerism, self-worth, race, and identity—and leaves readers with a shocking and unsettling truth.
About the Author
Ling Ling Huang is a writer and violinist. She plays with several ensembles, including the Oregon Symphony, Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra, ProMusica, Chamber Orchestra, and the Experiential Orchestra, with whom she won a Grammy Award in 2021. Natural Beauty is her first novel.
"A propulsive, captivating read, Natural Beauty pulled me into its world like a fever dream. A prescient look at the dirty underbelly of society's beauty standards, it also carries a moving reminder that true beauty is often found in the very things we've been taught to abandon." —Constance Wu, star of Crazy Rich Asians and author of Making a Scene
"Precise, unflinching, and utterly unforgettable, Natural Beauty is both a razor-sharp critique of the beauty industry and a startlingly tender story of family and sacrifice. This book will swallow you whole." —Grace D. Li,New York Timesbestselling author of Portrait of a Thief
“A surreal, dreamlike thriller where art and darkness are woven together in unexpected ways. The main character is tortured and brilliant, and possesses immense appeal and heartbreak. The cinematic storytelling shows what happens when businesses trade on the most extreme levels of human desires. Gripping!” —Frances Cha, author ofIf I Had Your Face
"A modern-day Picture of Dorian Gray shot through a Cronenbergian lens, Ling Ling Huang's Natural Beauty has big things to say about art, society, and the obsessive pursuit of youth. Huang's writing is as austere as a flawless arpeggio, but there is great warmth in Huang's portrayal of her characters." —Nick Cutter, author of The Troop, The Deep, and Little Heaven
“Huang frets the ‘fine line between beauty and ugliness, ripeness and rot’ in this alluring tale of estrangement, body horror, and possibly a new genre, Dark Wellness—pierced through by a daughter's love for her immigrant parents. Ardent and unsettling.”—Lisa Hsiao Chen, author of Activities of Daily Living
“Eerie and entertaining, Natural Beauty intertwines a terrifying critique of the beauty industry with a poignant ode to the power of music and the devotion of immigrant families. Ling Ling Huang is a fearless storyteller, and this book is as luminous as it is thrilling.” —Pik-Shuen Fung, author of Ghost Forest
“Ling Ling Huang amplifies and expands the future of horror fiction with a book so riveting it is impossible to put down.” —Rikki Ducornet, author of Phosphor in Dreamland