Layla

A young woman embarks on a life-changing cross-country trip to face a family secret rooted in America’s most turbulent decade. Layla James, a recent graduate and budding photographer, never knew anything about her father except that he named her for the iconic song by Eric Clapton. Her mother–steeped in a political activism that Layla rejects–kept their past shrouded in secrecy, and when she dies of cancer, she leaves only an enigmatic letter–the first in a series that will lead Layla through a cross-country network of ’60s radicals and closer to the bombshell at the heart of her parents’ past. As Layla makes her way from the East Coast to a commune in the California desert, she discovers more about friendship, love, forgiveness, and the personal repercussions of political activism than she could ever have imagined. A stirring and panoramic story, viewed through the lens of the next generation, this exceptional debut novel brings the gestalt of the ’60s into focus and sheds new light on the era’s legacy in the new millennium.

More about Layla

Behind Layla with Céline »

Music from the book »

Where’s Layla »

Read “Abbas and Me”» 

Buy the Book

Barnes & Noble Powells.com Amazon.com

Watch the Trailer

Praise for LAYLA

Poets & Writers Magazine “More Great Summer Fiction Debuts” selection

Featured on Huffington Post: On our Radar: Best Books Just Out Or Coming Soon We Thought You Should Know About

Layla is a poignant read about making sense of it all and the weight of reality.
Midwest Book Review, 5-star review
A beautiful book—at once nostalgic and fresh—that will go straight to your heart and lodge there.
Alethea Black, author of I Knew You’d Be Lovely
In Céline Keating’s auspicious debut, the political and the emotional collide, as one generation’s raison d’etre—the radical politics of the ’60s—becomes their offspring’s burden.  What results is a wrenching look at the human costs of activism and the resiliency of love.
Helen Schulman, author of A Day at the Beach
and This Beautiful Life
Layla’s story unfolds like a finely calibrated psychological mystery. In her search for the truth of her parents’ past, she enters a world of subterfuge and danger, cold-hearted judgment and unexpected kindness.  With each new revelation about her past, Layla—the disaffected daughter of ’60s activists whose apolitical nature is matched only by her scorn for what she considers to be the antiquated passions of her parents—begins to peel open, onion-like, finding new respect for the powerful forces that shaped her, and developing passions of her own.  In Layla, Céline Keating has created an unforgettable character who is by turns exasperating, funny, courageous and fiercely loyal.  Layla’s journey toward understanding of her past and present evokes both the idealism and danger of the ’60s, which resonate to this day.
Susan Segal, author of Aria
In Layla, Céline Keating has produced a fast-moving story of family secrets, political intrigue, and a young woman’s coming of age. Layla is a rare combination of a novel that is both suspenseful and insightful, narrated by a character who is charming, intelligent, appealing, and most importantly, honest. Her search for the truth about her father and for meaning in her own life is a gripping tale and a memorable read.
Con Lehane, author of Death at the Old Hotel
Céline Keating’ first novel, Layla, takes a vivid and rueful look backward from the viewpoint of the daughter of a ’60s activist couple. Layla’s ambivalence toward her parents and their idealism is evoked in beautiful prose and telling details. The novel brings to life the complexity of family dynamics, with all its conflicts, dangers, and rewards. The reader travels with Layla as she searches to understand her past and present and comes out of the journey wiser.
Nahid Rachlin, author of the memoir Persian Girls and the novels Foreigner and Jumping Over Fire
As the Great American Nostalgia Machine works to convert the idealism and anger and, yes, the naiveté of the Sixties into a cartoon of funny hair and flowery shirts, Céline Keating’s novel,Layla, provides a strong antidote by sending her eponymous heroine on the road in quest of the realties of her parents’ past.  As Layla James drives cross-country, following the cryptic directions of her late mother, she meets a wide and sharply drawn group of veteran radicals who all play a part in the search for her mysterious father.  Is he alive or dead?  Was he an innocent or a criminal?  Were her parents who she thought they were?  Keating keeps the pace fast and the suspense high as Layla’s discoveries add up, bringing real change into her own young life.  You’ll want to ride with her every mile of the way!
Robert Hershon, editor, Hanging Loose Press, and author of twelve collections of poetry, most recently 
Calls from the Outside World
Céline Keating’s debut novel, Layla, is a triumph of political literature.  With mastery, Keating has fashioned a thrilling and moving tale of a young woman forced to discover the secret history of her family.  Set in contemporary time, Layla reaches back into the tumultuous 1960s.  It’s the perfect novel for anyone in search of a serious, compelling read, but Keating’s deep socio-political knowledge of the period, combined with her narrative skills of pacing and mystery, also makes this a perfect choice for American Studies courses; it is as informative as it is impossible to put down.
Marnie Mueller, author of Green Fires,
The Climate of the Country, and My Mother’s Island
Céline Keating’s deftly plotted novel takes readers on a gripping journey along the underground railroad of post-’60s radicalism. I fully empathized with Layla and her search for a father lost in history. Every adult has to reinterpret the story of her childhood. Keating beautifully demonstrates the courage it takes for each of us to face that bittersweet truth.
Larry Dark, Editor, The Story Prize
I love Layla. I will give this novel, a precious gift, to my friends whose psyches were shaped by the idealism, hope, and chaos of the “Sixties.” As a student of that period, I will also beg younger friends to read this emotional page-turner. Layla’s coming to terms with her parents’ dangerous activism is heart wrenching due to Keating’s delightfully drawn characters. This novel also serves as a compelling lesson in our values and how drastically they’ve changed. It serves as a better history than any essay or screed.
Susan Braudy, author of Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left