An often entertaining mystery about extreme psychotherapy.

The Other Woman

Intense psychodramas involving two women and their domineering shrink escalate to skullduggery and violence in this noirish debut suspense novel.

San Francisco Bay Area psychiatrist Robert Buchanan’s Reichian praxis of forcing patients to confront “the primal truth about sex, the drives, the instincts” by needling them with sarcasm as he sketches pornographic cartoons may seem like an inappropriate way to treat sexual assault victims. But after two years of such therapy, Anna Sheffield, a rape survivor suffering from PTSD and sculptor’s block, thinks she’s making some progress. However, her confidence in his methods wanes when another patient, Michele, a gorgeous exotic dancer and child molestation victim, tells her that Robert fathered her 18-month-old child during a session; the striptease she performed for him, complete with an undulating serpent-in-Eden tattoo, eroded his willpower. Michele’s scheme to blackmail Robert into paying or marrying her gradually ropes in the well-meaning Anna and unearths evidence of other sexual misdeeds and suspicious deaths in his past. Robert will use all his powers of seductive manipulation, medical authority, and pharmacological expertise to suppress this evidence. The sleuthing plot at the center of Van Alyn’s meandering yarn sometimes feels contrived and ill-motivated; it’s the kind of story in which people keep asking the heroine why she doesn’t just go the authorities with her suspicions—and they never get a good answer. What redeems the novel, however, is the subtlety and psychological shrewdness of the author’s prose and dialogue, and the vibrant complexity of her characters. Robert, for example, is a masterpiece of bombastic narcissism (“She was too small to tolerate the vast spaces of his inner being,” he muses about his former wife), and Michele is a richly layered tapestry of delusional romanticism and self-centered money-grubbing, whose hard-boiled bravado masks her raw neediness. Even secondary characters possess a Dickensian piquancy; their actions don’t always make sense, but it’s fascinating to get inside their heads.

An often entertaining mystery about extreme psychotherapy.

Pub Date: July 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-73479-7

Page Count: 390

Publisher: ShadowWorks Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2016

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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