In Skin, Kellie Wells follows up with an aspect of writing that she had shown earlier with her short story collection, Compression Scars - she is a writer willing to take chances. The stories of the people living in What Cheer, Kansas are not what you might typically find in novels. As Meg Sefton so elequently put in an earlier comments section: (Skin) " ... is about spiritual exploration, a dream world, the possibilities inherent in imagination and what is not on the surface of our lives, but what we share in our humanity and our commonality with the planet."
It is perhaps the combination of this spiritual exploration and the fact that the world has a dreamlike feeling about it, or almost a magical aspect to it, that was most surprising to me. Wells doesn't come out and blast away with religious dogma at all. She instead allows her various characters to explore their own individual faith and spirituality based upon their own situations. There are teenagers, Duncan and Ivy, exploring their burgeoning relationship, while dealing with the fact that Duncan is a living time bomb based on the compression scars his body has as a result of an earlier accident. There is also Charlotte McCorkle, slowly losing it and believing that she is responsible for the death of her husband, even though he's not dead, but instead in a nursing home across town. Wells also has a Deacon hitting the wall in terms of accepting his life and faith, a highly imaginative little girl and her mother and grandmother and their interactions, and others - and each brings something to the table in terms of exploring faith and spirituality.
Wells brings all of these together and does so with language and a vocabulary that challenges the reader. She infuses her writing with many biological terms and phrases that sent me wandering to dictionary.com more than a few times. She also has a great hand at metaphors and similes, which I tend to enjoy. An example: "The sparse and occasional vegatation that poked through the otherwise bald ground looked like two days of beard growrth sprouting on a lumpy, featureless face."
The combination of the writing, the unique topics Wells points her readers towards, and the risks she takes in her fiction are what kept my attention once I began reading Skin, and kept it there through the end of the book and further.