An astute, farcical look at the psychiatric profession.

READ REVIEW

SHRUNK

In Hogart’s debut comedic novel, a New England couple moves next door to an insane psychotherapist who dedicates himself to tormenting them. 

Psychiatrist Henry Avalon and his wife, Helena, move into a new home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their new neighbor, Henry’s colleague Albert Prendergast, immediately comes off as socially awkward at best, and worrisomely weird at worst. Henry and Helena’s intuition about him turns out to be unfortunately correct, as Prendergast seems intent on harassing them both, personally and professionally. He leaves dead animals in front of their house, defaces their property, whistles at night to disturb their sleep, and leaves a sign in his window that reads “HOT RED SHORTS!” after Helena wears red, short pants in her garden. He demands that the Avalons build a fence around their property, and after they do, he throws rocks at it and files a false complaint with the local zoning board. When Henry confronts him, he shrilly screams a homophobic slur at him. Henry regularly calls the police about his neighbor’s antics, but without solid evidence, there’s little that the authorities can do. Later, Prendergast strategically claims to need therapy, solicits it from Henry, and then accuses him of malpractice before the state licensing board. Meanwhile, Henry’s reputation at work suffers—no one believes his stories, and his petty co-workers are threatened by his intelligence and success. One is overcome by “implacable hatred” when Henry proves more knowledgeable than he is at an informal book-club gathering. Another bizarrely jogs naked through the woods—with green and red makeup on his testicles.  Author Hogart is a psychiatrist who was a faculty member at Harvard Medical School for two decades, so he’s uniquely positioned to satirize his own profession. Henry’s colleagues, as the author hilariously portrays them, are as eccentric as they are venal; for example, Mendelson, a fellow psychiatrist, reveals himself to be neither capable of nor interested in genuine camaraderie when his wife asks him why he gives Henry the cold shoulder: “I thought I told you. The cost of friendship would have been to become involved in a problem of his.” Hogart also expertly mocks how some psychotherapists put stock in fashionable theories that are so incredibly general that they’re nearly impossible to falsify. The Avalons, though, are shown to make some strange choices; early on, for instance, they decide that Prendergast’s misbehavior must be the result of loneliness and take out a personal ad on his behalf. Also, given how clearly they recognize their neighbor’s combination of malice and deviant behavior, it simply makes no sense that Henry would ever agree to become the man’s therapist. However, Hogart’s prose is quick-witted and slyly perceptive throughout. He has a comic sense of the absurd that evokes Kurt Vonnegut’s work and an eye for vanity that’s reminiscent of Tom Wolfe’s. The author’s professional peers might be piqued by his novel’s ruthless characterizations, but the remainder of his readership is likely to be thoroughly amused. 

An astute, farcical look at the psychiatric profession.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9883553-1-6

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Bickerstaff Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

more