2011 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award finalist
“In her sure-handed, compact debut, Campbell offers a portrait of an artist as a young woman, born the same day that Georgia O’Keeffe died, who harbors the notion that she’s destined for greatness. Barely out of art school, she traces O’Keeffe’s footsteps to Santa Fe, New Mexico (Campbell has a talent for setting and makes excellent use of her landscape), where she waits for inspiration and fame to strike. When neither occurs, she takes to copying O’Keeffe’s canvases, initially as a painting exercise and eventually as forgeries. This is a subtle yet engaging study of her characters’ contradictions, and the corrosive effect that discontentment has on their lives.” —Booklist
“A brief, intensely introspective debut. An affecting novel about art and the ways it does and doesn't reflect life.” —Kirkus
“In carefully wrought prose reminiscent of Alice Munro, Ms. Campbell displays a remarkable ability to shift from Ivy’s interior struggles and musings to the necessities of plot construction to propel the story forward, and uses the severe elegance of both O’Keeffe’s work and the desert environment that produced it to echo Ivy’s shifting loyalties.” --newyorkjournalof books.com
As much of a love-letter to O’Keeffe and the landscape so often featured in her artwork as any of the characters involved, the subject matter of The Dissemblers has either been meticulously researched or is a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s passion for the artist. The almost-overwhelming beauty and drama of the stark desert setting mirrors the way that the characters at times seem to feel lost and insignificant within their mazes of conflicting emotions and affinities, and such heavy, labyrinthine issues as integrity, identity, truth and consequence...Liza Campbell is a talented writer, at times reminding me of Mary Gaitskill, Jeanette Winterson or Alice Munro, and The Dissemblers is an accomplished debut. -- forbookssake.net
“Campbell’s prose shines throughout. Whether describing the sweeping vistas of New Mexico or the longing of the human heart, she paints with words what pigments and brushstrokes might not so readily capture. ‘When you finish the painting, there is a period of glowing adoration for what you’ve done. You think, this is exactly what I meant to say… But one day, inexplicably, you’ll see the painting from a different angle, or in different lighting, and suddenly it is trite and talentless.’ Her work as a forger forces her to ask herself why humans as a species value art so highly. Is it simply for the beauty of artifact? And, if so, then why should an original O’Keeffe fetch a higher price at auction than an exact replica painted by a skilled artisan? The answer, it turns out, is as complicated as Ivy’s relationships with the men (and woman) in her life. It has everything to do with love.” —Small Press Reviews
“With a painterly eye, Campbell tells a coming-of-age story that illuminates the ills of our cultural moment, in which it's so difficult to distinguish the genuine from the fake. She's also an astute and lyrical observer of the exacting demands of art, so that we see how easily a transforming impulse can become corrupted by the hunger for recognition.”
—Catherine Brady, recipient of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and author of The Mechanics of Falling
“Reading Liza Campbell’s debut novel is like discovering a beautiful painting. First you notice its boldest strokes, and then its poetry, and finally it surprises you with the intricacy of its design. This is writing so accomplished it fills the reader with longing: to visit the New Mexico desert, to attempt something reckless and risky, to live and love more deeply." —K.M. Soehnlein, author of Robin and Ruby
The Dissemblers is the story of a woman searching for greatness and beauty, only to find that neither greatness nor beauty are exactly what she thought. Ivy Wilkes always assumed she would achieve greatness as a painter. She moves to Santa Fe in search of the light and landscape that inspired her idol, Georgia O’Keeffe. At first, Ivy embraces life in the artsy desert town, working in the O’Keeffe museum by day and spending her evenings with Omar, the seductive cousin of her upstairs neighbors. But when Ivy’s own painting stagnates, she finds herself paralyzed by the fear that she will never paint anything of worth. Unable to create anything original, she begins imitating Georgia O’Keeffe’s work and is enticed by an offer to create O’Keeffe forgeries to sell on the black market.
The paintings sell, but Ivy’s secrets isolate her from those she loves. When a mysterious man appears at the museum, asking questions about O’Keeffe forgeries, Ivy’s bonds of love and friendship are tested. In her struggle to find her own artistic voice, she navigates the space between pride and guilt, love and selfishness, with devastating consequences.
Rendered in concentrated prose, The Dissemblers explores themes of isolation and misunderstanding. The emotions are subtle, and the characters continually thwart their own best intentions and harbor mutually exclusive desires.