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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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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