Echo is a failing actress who prefers to lose herself in the lives of others rather than examine her own. When her father disappears in a seaside misstep, she and her mother are left grief-stricken, unsure of how to piece back together their family that, it turns out, had never been whole. But then Orly, a dominatrix, moves in across the street. And through her, Echo begins to find the pieces that will allow her to carry on. Set among the bright colours and harshly glittering lights of Los Angeles, this is a love story about people addled with dreams and expectations who turn to the erotic for answers.
"If Joan Didion had written about the BDSM community in LA it may have felt a bit like Permission, Saskia Vogel’s evocative debut novel. When Echo’s father dies in a freak accident, grief pulls her under like a rip curl into a world of art models, dominatrixes and sex workers. Many of them are part timers hoping for a break into a Hollywood’s dream machine. Step by step Echo doesn’t just watch, but there are risks. Vogel is deeply perceptive of how a desire to be seen can grow out of acute loss, and how friendships made in enclosed worlds waver due to the way shame can dart in. Like Didion, Vogel is all about atmosphere and can burnish a sentence down to a Stingray’s tail bulb’s perfection. Didion was a tourist though in some of the worlds she explored, like Salvador or a murder scene. On occasion, it was hard for her not to sneer. Vogel only loves her characters, even when they’re making bad decisions, sometimes to an almost utopian degree. For the past five years the LA native has been a big reason why some of Sweden’s best young writers are finally making it into English, novelists like Lina Wolff, Lena Andersson, and Karolina Ramquist. Many of them feminists interested in the warp of sex and love. There’s a quest in all these writers to grapple with the shape of society and what it could be if certain assumptions could be changed. Here with her own work Vogel starts more modestly, but no less ambitiously; she just shows us what is there, barely underground, and by treating it with dignity rather luridness, gives us permission to visit."
- John Freeman, "Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2019" list (Dec 28, 2018)
Saskia Vogel grew up in Los Angeles and currently lives in Berlin, where she works as a writer and Swedish-to-English literary translator. She has written on the themes of gender, power, and sexuality for publications such as The White Review, The Offing, and The Quietus . Previously, she worked as Granta magazine's global publicist and as an editor at the AVN Media Network, where she reported on pornography and adult pleasure products.
Stephanie LaCava is a writer living in New York. She is the founder of Small Press books.