by Keri Picolla
Living in Los Angeles for twenty years, I consider this city my soul mate, my chosen home. It’s a place of optimism, romanticized and eulogized over time and space. Hope is latent in a place like this—an ever-changing landscape built on sacrifice and dreams. There is gleaming potential here, an underlying magic, that transforms those willing to let the city under their skin. A mythology one must buy into and accept like a marriage vow, for better or for worse. With that said, after years of working in the service industry, catering to the ultra-rich elite class of Angelenos that barricade themselves high above the hills in their glass houses and infinity pools, those experiences slowly and steadily cracked this city’s shiny veneer for me.
And we, the help, become both witness and accomplice to the ugliest of human nature. For there’s nothing more dangerous than the idle rich. That type of wealth can be corrosive, especially to young vibrant women with a dream. But I can’t help to love Los Angeles still, with its glittering flaws and hopeful pessimism, and this is the heart from which author Liska Jacobs writes The Pink Hotel. Our shared love affair with Los Angeles runs deep and it is evident in the care she takes for our city. In her third novel on the heels of her paramount debut Catalina and significant follow-up novel The Worst Kind of Want, Jacobs pivots in her deep excavation into the dark underbelly of the hospitality beast, as the reader leaps head-first down this almost neo-noir rabbit hole.
Cleverly drawn, the novel’s structure captures that elusiveness of feeling trapped in a bubble. Set at the famous Beverly Hills Hotel, the events of the novel only span a week's time yet feels indeterminate the further it’s read. The story opens on a Monday morning with young honeymooners Kit and Keith Collins as they step foot upon the hotel’s notorious red carpet. They are out of their element, to say the least, as both Keith and Kit come from modest upbringings from a small Northern California town. They both work in the hospitality industry where Keith manages a small hotel in Gold Country, and Kit, his young newlywed bride, is a hostess, works beneath him. Keith dreams of more out of life and hopes to become assistant manager of the famous hotel to elevate his and his young wife’s status.
To the twenty-three-year-old Kit Collins, the world of the Pink Hotel feels so large and foreign, with its intoxicating lily-scented lobby to the cool air on her skin, the tall pink walls erase the outside heat, humidity, and stench of a city about to catch fire. Mesmerized by the eccentric and colorful guests she encounters to the crystal chandeliers glittering above her head, this is a world as foreign to the small-town girl as her world would be to the jet-setting regulars she meets. By that Friday, as Los Angeles burns from wildfires and riots, the guests and employees are confined within the hotel walls and that iconic banana leaf wallpaper slowly folds in on itself as the tedium of excess sets in. Over time, the occupants of the Pink Hotel experience a sense of disconnect that hinders their ability to discern from reality. For Kit, the shiny façade of the hotel and the allure of its Uber-rich guests begin to fade and her need to ground herself, in reality, sets the stage for the intoxicating finale that spins to an almost cataclysmic disaster where the lives of the guests and employees will never be same.
The Pink Hotel leaves a lasting impression, one of strange dichotomies of both hope and despair. It’s not easily defined, Jacobs and my shared love affair with Los Angeles. Yet Jacobs has deftly captured the bittersweetness of longing for the beauty that comes from hoping for a more perfect world. Even when the world is at its ugliest, spinning in an intoxicated shit show, there is an unbreakable human need to believe in love despite it all. In the same way The Pink Hotel lured the Collins with a promise in its sublime magic, Los Angeles invites all those who carry a deep-seated lonely ache a place to belong. The story of The Pink Hotel and its crazy cast of characters stick with you, long after you’ve finished that last page. Hang on for a wild and haunting ride. You won’t be able to put this novel down.
Keri Picolla is a writer and filmmaker. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California Riverside - Palm Desert and a BA in film and television from California State University in Northridge. She has written and directed several short films garnering multiple film festival awards. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two daughters.