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Self-Portrait with Nothing

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If a picture paints a thousand worlds...

Abandoned as an infant on the local veterinarian’s front porch, Pepper Rafferty was raised by two loving mothers, and now at thirty-six is married to the stable, supportive Ike. She’s never told anyone that at fifteen she discovered the identity of her biological mother.

That’s because her birth mother is Ula Frost, a reclusive painter famous for the outrageous claims that her portraits summon their subjects’ doppelgangers from parallel universes.

Researching the rumors, Pepper couldn’t help but wonder:
Was there a parallel universe in which she was more confident, more accomplished, better able to accept love?
A universe in which Ula decided she was worth keeping?
A universe in which Ula’s rejection didn’t still hurt too much to share?

Sometimes living our best life means embracing the imperfect one we already have…

304 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 18, 2022

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About the author

Aimee Pokwatka grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia. She studied anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and received her MFA in creative writing from Syracuse University. Her work has been published in Fairy Tale Review, Outlook Springs, Hunger Mountain, and elsewhere. She lives in New York with her family.

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5 stars
239 (17%)
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468 (34%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 301 reviews
Profile Image for Rosh.
1,577 reviews1,844 followers
October 27, 2022
In a Nutshell: Could have been brilliant but ends up as average. Innovative concept. But the execution transcends multiple genres and creates a mishmash of experiences. The choppy pacing doesn’t help. Debut work, so I will cut it some slack.

Story Synopsis:
Thirty-six year old Pepper Rafferty lives a happy average life. Abandoned as a baby, she was raised by the lesbian doctor couple who found her on their veterinary hospital’s doorstep. Pepper is married to Ike, an ordinary, easy-going man with excessive interest in historical journals. Pepper herself is a forensic anthropologist and loves her job.
There’s one thing about Pepper that no one knows: when she was fifteen, she discovered the identity of her biological mother, who was none other than Ula Frost, a notoriously reclusive painter famous for her paintings that supposedly summoned the subject’s doppelgangers to this world from an alternate universe.
Now Ula Frost is missing, presumed dead. Pepper suddenly finds herself at the centre of attention of various parties, good and bad—all of whom want to crack the secret behind Ula Frost, not realising that she is a secret to Pepper too.

Where the book worked for me:
✔ The concept is truly unusual. While multiverses and doppelgangers have been a part of various fictional works, using art as a medium to access these rather than the more typical technological entryways was a novelty.

✔ Pepper and Ike make for an interesting couple. Neither overly lovey-dovey nor totally indifferent, their relationship comes across as quite relatable. Their connection is more based on the mind than on the body, and this shows in their repartee and their strong connection with each other even through non-verbal communication. While some of their arguments were too trivial and hence avoidable (which is what happens between couples in real life too), I still liked how they were portrayed so realistically.

✔ There are some interesting secondary characters, the best being Pepper’s lesbian moms Lydia and Annie.

✔ The title is perfect for the story, though I can’t reveal its relevance now as it will be a spoiler. (The cover is brilliant too!)

✔ The story makes good use of its locations. I especially enjoyed the parts set in Poland.

Where the book could have worked better for me:
❌ The pacing isn’t consistent. It was too slow during the initial three quarters and too rushed in the final quarter.

❌ The story covers various genres: magical realism, drama, family, literary fiction, speculative fiction, mystery and thriller. Unfortunately, these aren’t blended well and the plot goes hopping from one to another, creating a choppy feeling as you go along. The initial sections are more dramatic while the finale is like an action thriller. As a character-driven story, the book hinges entirely on the actions of its characters, which may not work well for plot-driven content lovers.

❌ While the plot vaguely reminded me of Blake Crouch’s ‘Dark Matter’, it left a lot untouched. There could have been so much more explored with respect to the alternate universes, but the story sets itself very firmly in our world. The whats and whys of the multiversal technicalities remain unexplained.

❌ It overdoes the reference to alternate universes while Pepper is musing. Especially in the first half, after every few lines, we hear “in another universe,…[assumption about what would/could have been]…” These multiversal what-if ramblings get too repetitive and boring soon.

❌ The ending feels somewhat anticlimactic. So many things are left unsaid. There’s no closure.

The audiobook experience:
The audiobook, clocking at a little more than 11 hours, is narrated by Jesse Vilinsky. She is simply brilliant! There are plenty of characters to keep track of in this story, but thanks to her narration, not once did I falter on the identity of anyone. The only issue is that there are plenty of text messages between Pepper and Ike, which becomes slightly confusing in the audio version as they appear in between another conversation or scene. If you think this isn’t a big issue, then audio is definitely the way to go for this mixed-paced story.

All in all, this isn’t a bad story, but it is also not as mind-blowing as it could have been by virtue of that brilliant concept. It is a strange book, but then again, it is speculative fiction – there’s no fun in this genre without a shade of bizarreness to the content.

This debut author certainly shows promise, and with a bit of editorial fine-tuning, her future works are sure to be more impactful. I’ll definitely keep her on my radar. I don’t know how I would have felt if I were reading this due to the varying pace and genres, but the audiobook certainly helped a lot.

3.5 stars, rounding up for the audio version.

My thanks to Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for the ALC of “Self-Portrait with Nothing”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the audiobook.

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Profile Image for Laura.
75 reviews48 followers
October 9, 2022
Self-Portrait with Nothing follows Pepper, a 36-year-old anthropologist. Her biological mother, whom she has never met, is an artist who can allegedly paint doubles of her subjects into our world from alternate universes. Over the course of the book, Pepper uncovers the mystery surrounding the elusive and secretive artist.

It is a fascinating premise, and there are also interesting secondary characters, like Pepper’s husband, a historian specializing in the history of sexuality, and Pepper’s adoptive mothers, who own a veterinary clinic.

The pacing was slower in about the first 60 percent of the book, and after that, it really picks up as more fantastical elements were introduced. It’s definitely one to check out for readers interested in the concept of the multiverse.

Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for the advanced copy.
Profile Image for Boston.
421 reviews1,879 followers
May 4, 2022
Possible 4.5 stars.

I honestly really enjoyed this book and hypothetically it would be 5 stars. However, my one personal “issue” was that I was hoping for a more horror-esque story when it’s actually more sci-fi. That being said, if you like sci-fi, you’ll LOVE this and in an alternate universe (haha) it would be a favorite of mine. It was well thought out and perfectly executed, just not what I wanted at this moment in time. Hopefully that makes since. Anyway yeah read this book.

*thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,214 reviews3,214 followers
August 7, 2022
2.5 stars
I loved the premise, but I really struggled to connect to the actual narrative. The characters and story just did not work for me. I have many literary SFF books, but the style of this one was not to my tastes.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,399 reviews595 followers
July 9, 2022
“It’s a self-portrait,” Iphigenia said. “It’s a portrait of Ula, young, maybe even a teenager, holding an infant. It’s called Self-Portrait with Nothing.

I’ve seen Self-Portrait with Nothing shelved as Sci-Fi or Fantasy, but it’s really a bit of light Mystery with a twist of magical realism: Pepper Rafferty is a thirty-six-year-old academic and forensic anthropologist — working at the university on archaic remains and with the police on fresh ones — and hers is a loving and stable life, supported by her two moms and the husband she married seven years earlier. When Ula Frost — a famous artist from Pepper’s hometown — is reported missing, a strange connection between the two women, and a threatening group on Pepper’s heels, will propel Pepper from clue to clue on the reclusive artist’s shadowy trail across Europe. Like a mix of Recursion, The Da Vinci Code and The Picture of Dorian Gray, with a nod to the Bones novels, debut novelist Aimee Pokwatka has written an interesting and engaging story. Pepper and her husband, Ike, are wonderfully and believably fleshed out, but if I had a complaint, the rest of the characters are just kind of props (some cartoonishly so) for Pepper’s story. The magical twist isn’t really explained (it’s just accepted, but is it necessary?), and while Pepper follows a series of puzzles, codes, and clues, I wouldn’t really call this a mystery. With a background in anthropology and an MFA, I reckon Pokwatka is going for literary fiction here, and while Pepper does come to some conclusions about life and its meaning, there’s nothing very deep or revelatory here. Still, easy and entertaining, I was happily propelled along. Slight spoilers beyond here. (Note: I read an ARC through NetGalley and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.)

When Pepper couldn’t sleep — at least since she was fifteen — she imagined the alternate universes that might be out there if alternate universes really existed. A universe where antibiotics had already stopped working. A universe where cancer had a cure. A universe where that man had never become president and started that war, and all the people who’d died and the cities that’d been destroyed still lived and stood perfectly intact. A universe where she hadn’t met Ike in the hotel lobby of a conference about the evolution of human sexuality. A universe where they’d met but hadn’t skipped out on the conference in favor of drinking hurricanes at the hotel bar and ended up in Ike’s room shortly thereafter. A universe where they’d broken up that time she told him she couldn’t see herself married instead of staying together. A universe where the pregnancy scare had been an actual pregnancy, and now they had a couple of kids, and two dogs and a cat, who was the boss of them all, and it was chaos and she mostly loved it.

Pepper has long been intrigued by the idea of alternate universes — and drawn to the idea that her life might be playing out in better, happier ways elsewhere despite having what looks like a happy life in this one — so she has also always been intrigued by the rumours about Ula Frost’s paintings: Apparently whenever she paints a person’s portrait, the subject’s doppelgänger is summoned from a parallel universe, with generally unhappy results. But that’s just a rumour, right? When Ula goes missing and presumed dead, and Pepper is for some reason named as her executor, a threatening visit from The Everett Group sends Pepper after a trail of breadcrumbs that may or may not turn her world upside down.

There was something very engaging about Pepper’s character: I liked how serious she was about her work, the interesting backstory of being raised by two moms (partners in life and a veterinary practice), her believable relationship with her husband Ike. And I liked that Ike was a fellow academic: a historian who seemed most interested in women’s stories (while Pepper is travelling through Europe, Ike is exploring and sharing the diaries of a single woman who travelled with a wagon train along the Oregon Trail). Their phone and text conversations — sometimes friendly, sometimes impatient — were believable and relatable. But no other characters were really fleshed out (the moms and a police officer are introduced early, and they seemed really interesting, but aren’t really revisited), the mystery aspect wasn’t really intense (we just follow along with the clues), and I still don’t know if the magical paintings (or cartoonish bad guys) were necessary for Pepper to come to the following conclusion:

In every universe there was still plenty of uncertainty and grief, and kindness and anger and suffering and joy, beautiful things and miracles and tragedies that knocked people on their asses, there were mistakes and forgiveness, second-guessing and the question of what else might be out there — all constants in every universe, all existing at the same time. Pepper felt the innumerable universes around her, and then she let them go.

Still: This was a breezy read with much to like in it. No regrets.
Profile Image for Hina ♡.
321 reviews143 followers
October 5, 2022
(I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review)
This book is like a mix between The Midnight Library by Matt Haig & the mobile game Death Palette and I love both of them so freakin' much so need I say more?
Profile Image for Matthew Galloway.
1,038 reviews33 followers
May 25, 2022
I came into this one because the plot sounded fascinating and potentially creepy. It certainly has its unsettling bits, but what really kept me hooked was Pepper's focus on "what ifs" in a multiverse where all of them exist... and when you know they do, it feels impossible not to judge yourself against them. And her absent mother. Basically, Pepper's emotions and insecurities are explored so beautifully against the backdrop of her mother's disappearance. The fact that her ordinary anxieties were still so prominent when Big important Things are happened had me feeling less alone in my own multiverse. And then that ending, despite bittersweet aspects, had me feeling so full of joy to be alive and working to figure out my own happiness.
Profile Image for Brittany (Britt's Book Blurbs).
690 reviews165 followers
September 28, 2022
Thanks to NetGalley & Tordotcom for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

I spent this entire book trying to figure out what it was about. I'm still not totally sure, but I know I really enjoyed it.

This is probably the first 'wandering' narrative I've enjoyed in a long time. Of course, it helps that Pepper's inability to focus is due to her self-denial and that she's pretty open about it. It also helps that everything she focuses on instead of what she should be is pretty interesting. Pepper is kind of like Temperance Brennan from Bones, her husband is a historian who reads journals of dead people and spouts the most random information at all times, her adoptive mothers are vets, and her biological mother is an artist who brings doppelgängers from alternate timelines together - was Pokwatka thinking of me when she wrote this? It seems oddly specific to many of my interests...

"but just in case
and with the acknowledgment that i'm bad at words
this universe with us together
definitely my favourite universe
and i love you like a snake loves the sun"

Complex and unique in a way that not many books achieve these days, I could not recommend Self-Portrait with Nothing more highly.

Review originally posted here on Britt's Book Blurbs.

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Profile Image for nastya ♡.
889 reviews82 followers
February 26, 2023
this novel doesn’t know what it wants to be. more like “self-portrait with everything” tbh.
Profile Image for Mary Lins.
874 reviews126 followers
July 4, 2022
In a parallel universe, I am a talented writer who could write a novel as interesting and unique as Aimee Pokwatka has in her marvelous genre-defying debut novel, “Self-portrait with Nothing”! But alas, in THIS universe I’m just an appreciative book reviewer, grateful for the opportunity to get caught up in this very strange story.

I have long been fascinated by the “Multiverse” theory that there are an infinite number of “parallel universes” and in each one, our existence is different, depending on our life choices (or accidents). So the premise of this story: that a painter, Ula, is able to paint portraits of her subjects that magically call forth themselves from other universes, intrigued me no end!

The basic plot involves anthropologist, Pepper Rafferty, caught up in an international adventure searching for the painter, Ula, and getting more than she bargained for. The novel is classified Sci-Fi, but it’s actually more of a psychological mystery/thriller. Themes of life choices, regrets, and the mother-daughter relationship abound.

I was thoroughly engrossed in the story, and I appreciated the humorous bits Pokwatka so deftly sprinkled throughout, particularly the texts between Pepper and her husband Isaac.
The mystery, the suspense, the humor, and the thought-provoking premise all combined to make “Self-portrait with Nothing” an engaging and entertaining read.

Normally I eschew comparisons, but in this case they may help decide if this novel is for you. I was reminded of Kate Atkinson’s splendid novel, “Life After Life”, and of the TV series Black Mirror, and Orphan Black. I could easily see “Self-portrait with Nothing” as a series as well.

Thank you Tor publishing, for an advanced reader’s copy of this unusual novel.
Profile Image for Crystal FL Girl.
227 reviews9 followers
September 10, 2022
An interesting tale of a young woman searching to find her real mom. And what she discovered is definitely not what she expected. Having a supportive husband is certainly a plus for this young lady.
Raised in a loving home with loving parents she finds her real mom quite different. An Recluse whose paint where's to a parallel universe that inspires enhancer paintings.And the people who believe in want to steal or destroy the work. Looking for the pair of all universe. Is it real? A well written and thrilling story one Is worth reading.

I won an advanced reader's copy of this on good reads for my honest review
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,776 reviews1,777 followers
September 11, 2023
I'm so glad I picked this little book up against my normal inclinations. The cover makes it look like serious lit-fic, but it absolutely isn't. This is a light sci-fi/speculative book about a woman named Pepper who was adopted as a baby but whose biological mother, Ula Frost, is a famous reclusive portraitist who is said to be able to pull her clients' doppelgängers out of her paintings from alternate universes. When Ula seemingly disappears, Pepper is contacted by lawyers and made executor of her mothers' estate, and some sinister parties are *interested*.

Pepper's quiet life is thrown into a very weird sort of turmoil, involving thugs from a wealthy "art collecting organization" (::cough::), country hopping in Europe, a plethora of curry and sausages when all she wants is ice cream, missing portraits, dead bodies, furtive clues, muggings, and .

There is also a lot of musing about alternate universes. A running motif in this book is Pepper imagining herself in alternate universes during times of stress, and or emotional upset. I don't think these worked as well as the author wanted them to, but they added an interesting layer, as did the frequent texts between her and her husband, Ike, who are separated for most of the book, a separation that echoes their emotional distance (something that the book does resolve by the end).

Probably my biggest complaint, and why this didn't get five stars, is that the book is so small (only 293 pages) and so much happens so quickly, there really wasn't as much time for character development as I would have liked (although

I would definitely read more from this author.
Profile Image for Heather Jones.
157 reviews30 followers
April 25, 2022
The writing quality of this book is first-rate, and the main character pulled me in and broke my heart. She's the abandoned daughter of a famous painter. The painter specializes in portraits with a special quality - when your portrait is painted, it pulls a version of you from an alternate universe into this one. When the painter disappears, our narrator has to find her, and unravel the mysteries of her art, while facing the question, "Is there some version of me that's doing better than this?"

We all wonder that, don't we? I could connect pretty deeply with the main character, and I love the way the author handles the affectionate text messages between her and her husband. I kept getting stuck on the question, "But why would anyone ever commission one of these portraits?" Pokwatka does try to answer the question, but I couldn't quite wrap my head around the person who wouldn't immediately recognize this as a terrible idea.

Then again, the world is full of people who act on terrible ideas, isn't it?

This is well worth your time.
Profile Image for Julie • bujo.books.
655 reviews110 followers
October 23, 2022
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Pepper has never told anyone that she found out that her biological mother is famous portraitist Ula Frost. Now a forensic biologist, Pepper has lived her life entirely without her famous mother. But now that Ula has gone missing, Pepper has been brought into the spotlight as the sole inheritor of Ula's property. And there seems to be more to the rumors of strange things happening to those who Ula paints...

I love an alternate universe story, so after seeing this awesome title I was so excited to read this story. Unfortunately, this one fell flat for me. It takes over halfway through the book for the plot to pick up both in terms of pace and in the speculative element. I nearly DNF'ed this book even though I was reading it for review because it took so long. It didn't feel like the stakes were well defined once the action picked up; I didn't feel like our characters were in danger. The alternate universe idea is not expanded on very much or in an unexpected way. The only thing that was somewhat interesting to me was that the main character has a healthy home life with a loving husband and attentive parents who are still in her life as an adult.

Overall, this was a let down for me. I was waiting for so long to get to the alternate universe payoffs and when it finally came, it didn't go into that in a way I found to be unique or particularly compelling.
Profile Image for AndiReads.
1,015 reviews104 followers
August 6, 2022
What a strange and unusual book! I would love to see this on the screen.

Pepper Rafferty was raised by two mothers - she was found on a dog bed near their vet practice and quickly adopted. At 36, however, Pepper is still trying to find her footing in the world and truly understand herself. She has a habit of imagining herself in different worlds living a life based on different choices she would have made.

We find out that this is because she learned at an early date that her birth mother is the famous Ula Frost - a very famous and eclectic painter. Ula's models claim that her painting of them bring their mirror selves to our earth from other universes. Outrageous as it is, many believe it and Ula's paintings sell for millions of dollars.

This book was interesting until at 62% finished, it totally took off! Suddenly the parallel universes were brought to light, there was espionage and true thrills. I loved the last third of this book and it was worth reading the beginning even though (as you known) I truly loathe the "wishy washy, woe is me " female heroine. Pepper eventually comes through, as best she can. If you like parallel universes, wonder if there are other mirror lives out there, love artistically based books or just want a unique thriller, Self Portrait With Nothing is for you! #AimeePokwatka #Selfportraitwithnothing #netgalley #Tor #MacMillan #TorForge
Profile Image for Kailea.
103 reviews2 followers
June 5, 2023
In another universe, this book never entered into my sphere of knowledge and I continued on with my life blissfully unaware.

It had potential but did not delve into the parts that actually made it interesting.

Annoying bits:

#1 The texting.

Why was there no capitalization or punctuation? Why were thoughts (sometimes the same thought) sent as different texts? These were incredibly annoying. Also, you have to go into your settings to turn off automatic capitalization, why would both of them do that?

#2 Wondering about other universes and it having no relation to the plot.

This got so frustrating so quickly.

#3 The two introductory characters that never again appear in the story as narrators and barely have relevance.

Just why.

#4 Pepper

So unlikeable. She was so annoying I wished she would get sucked away to another universe.

#5 Ike

Why does he like Pepper? Why does anyone like Pepper? Everyone seems to but she's a leech.

#6 Ula

Needed way more motivation than "she's crazy and lonely."

#7 Why do we never talk or wonder about the actual interesting things???

ETA: don't use flour to put out a fire. It is combustible.
Profile Image for Sarah.
302 reviews2 followers
July 23, 2022
A genuinely moving and lovely book. I was rooting for Pepper - I liked her, with her two moms, and her constant pondering of what she might be doing in another universe where she made different choices. I do the same in my own life, but the biological mother who was an artist gave it an interesting twist.

Pepper is a woman surrounded by supporting and loving people. Her moms and their veterinary practice, her job where she is well respected. Her husband who adores her, even though she would go days without calling. Yet with all the love around her she is still seeking out her biological mom. Her "what ifs."

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Amber.
Author 7 books143 followers
June 24, 2022
SELF-PORTRAIT WITH NOTHING is an astonishingly memorable book. It's not just the fantastic premise (full of multiverse shenanigans and doppelgangers), but the writing was so striking and the book had so much heart I felt like I wanted to live inside of it for longer. Reminded me a bit of books by Blake Crouch, but with more emotional resonance and with a more female-centered narrative (in a very good way). Definitely a book I will be recommending to friends (and buying multiple copies of for gifts)!
Profile Image for Tracey Thompson.
342 reviews27 followers
May 24, 2023
4.5 stars

People who have read this and enjoyed it, have you ever read anything like it? It’s absolutely bonkers and I loved it.

Wonderful sci-fi elements, a protagonist with a huge amount of expertise and self-doubt. Clones! Shady art collectors. Polish meats!

I’ve said this before but more bonkers but brilliant books, please!
Profile Image for Lindsey DeLorey.
33 reviews1 follower
February 14, 2023
Darnit, I really wanted to like this book. The concept is so cool merging sci fi and fine art...but the execution just wasn't great and I almost didn't finish the book. Can someone take this concept and try again for me?
Profile Image for Irene.
1,048 reviews64 followers
November 15, 2022
This is one of those books in which I can't really relate to the protagonist because my brain just doesn't work like that, and I find the writing incredibly compelling regardless.

It's practically impossible to discuss this book without going into spoilers, so I'll just say that when the meaning of the title was made apparent, it felt like Pokwatka punched me right in the feelings. The ending was a little rushed, but ultimately satisfying in a quiet way.
Profile Image for Marne - Reader By the Water.
541 reviews29 followers
October 30, 2022
I hate surprises except when I read. When I read, I love to have NO GODLY IDEA where the book is heading.

I will check out a book to see if people whose taste match mine like it, but then once I decide, I go in blind. I don’t read the blurb, avoid all reviews and posts, and just read. I want to see the story unfold as the author intended, not as the community experienced it.

I had no idea where SELF-PORTRAIT WITH NOTHING was headed. Similar to MY DIRTY CALIFORNIA, it could have been sci-fi (parallel universes) or unreliable narrator (mental illness).

I’m delighted to say it worked. I enjoyed the unique story about Pepper, an adopted daughter searching for her famous mother, who has mysteriously disappeared. Complicating matters are a couple of powerful henchmen who want to find her, too. You see, Ula Frost isn’t just a painter. Rumor is when she paints a subject, she pulls their double to this universe from an alternate one.

Or does she?

I listened to the ALC and wasn't a big fan of the narrator's "male" voice, but otherwise, it was a solid delivery.
Profile Image for Geonn Cannon.
Author 106 books165 followers
October 7, 2022
A very enjoyable read! A unique and well-done take on alternate universes, which made this fan of Everything Everywhere All at Once very happy, with a main character that by the end I couldn't help but love. There may be "better" versions of Pepper out there somewhere, but I'm glad we were following this one (I wish we'd gotten more of her moms, who seemed amazing). There were moments when the "In a parallel universe..." speculation got out of hand/repetitive, but that's kind of the nature of the beast with this kind of story.

Thank to Netgalley for the ARC of the audiobook!
Profile Image for Phoebe E.
216 reviews5 followers
June 30, 2022
This is a book about mothers and daughters, paintings and parallel universes. It's strange, it's complicated, it's messy and it's deeply endearing. I really enjoyed reading Self-Portrait with Nothing, with it's intriguing storyline, mysterious figure of Ula Frost, and with Pepper, the novel's protagonist, who finds herself wrapped up in a story full of far more mothers and far more danger than she could ever expect. Even at her most frustrating, she is hard not to love. Overall, I found this book to be really enjoyable and highly recommend.
Profile Image for Kokie.
246 reviews
July 6, 2022
Such an interesting story mixing magical realism with big questions about the randomness of the universe with just a pinch of some of the realist feeling relationships and text messages I've read in a while. I love that it was all wrapped in a bit of mystery to boot. The hardest part about this reading experience will be encapsulating everything to potential readers. Just do it. It's weird and sweet and deep and somehow a complete joy.
Profile Image for Kevin Thomas James Atteridg.
313 reviews5 followers
June 7, 2022
In a universe where “multiverse” is now common-phrase, Pokwatka excels in crafting something entirely intriguing and wholeheartedly touching.

PS: If you enjoyed Everything Everywhere All at Once, please read Self-Portrait with Nothing. If you enjoyed S-PwN, please watch EEAaO. If you haven’t experienced either, well, we likely can’t be friends.

ARC provided by Goodreads.*
8 reviews4 followers
June 10, 2022
Very well written. Interesting story. Read like a thriller/mystery with some sci Fi concepts which I think will appeal to a larger audience.
Profile Image for B | crumbledpages.
501 reviews87 followers
June 17, 2023
The synopsis was doubtless intriguing that is why I picked up the book. However, I feel that this book failed to stand up to its promises.

Even though the starting of the book was slow, it was setting up for something big. Pepper’s mother, Ula, is a huge artist with a cult following, although quite mysterious. Her mother is reported missing in the start of the book and Pepper has never met Ula in her life. Suddenly she is bombarded with lawyers and people trying to threaten her to get Ula’s paintings. Pepper goes on a quest to find Ula and find out what happened to her.

I felt this book was slow paced for the most part. I was hooked to the story halfway through the book because I wanted to know what happened to Ula and then I started losing my interest because I felt like nothing was happening and the plot was not progressing. When it was slow, it was really slow and then it got fast paced real quick. Overall, the pacing didn’t feel consistent.

This is a genre bending book and the author tried to achieve a lot in a less time. There were elements of mystery, family drama and sci fi. Also, the sci fi bits were not explained properly. It deals with multiverses which is an immense concept in itself and it was not explained clearly. Even though we get some kind of idea about what’s happening, still I was little confused towards the second half of the book.

This book was more character driven than plot driven. Ula was the dominant character in the book even though she was missing. Pepper was the protagonist but she did not feel like a main character. She did not feel three dimensional and I did not have feeling towards her. However, in the second half of the book when Ula comes to the picture, I felt so underwhelmed by her. I did not like Ula at all.

Also, I thought things were too convenient for Pepper. She is on a quest to find Ula and ended up in Poland and she’d get information from people without any obstacle or find things were already waiting for her. It felt very convenient.

One more tiny gripe I had with this book was that the phrase “in another universe . . .” was repeated so many times. It got honestly annoying after the first 50 times. One more thing, mild spoilers ahead: so, Pepper is in the middle of a heist and she is texting with her husband. I am sorry but that made no sense. No wonder she got caught.

Overall, I think this book had an amazing concept but somewhere the author failed in the execution. I’d still recommend this book if you are new into the sci fi genre or if you like to read about books dealing with paintings.
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