Crane’s intensely engrossing, well-wrought debut explores an unorthodox relationship between a trauma victim and her doctor in Washington, D.C.
Former ballet dancer Kerry Taylor survives the car accident that kills her husband and young son, but six weeks later remains in a catatonic state that has no physical cause. So pushy Southern belle Arlene brings her 34-year-old daughter to the Rosewood Clinic, a cutting-edge psychotherapeutic facility where Dr. Michael Myatt is trying to establish his reputation in psychokinetic healing, which taps into the body’s “basic will to thrive.” Chapter titles refer to Michael’s methodology (“Orientation,” “The Will to Change,” etc.) as he deals with Kerry and a handful of other patients, including aggressive, foul-mouthed Manic Marcus and orange-haired, thumb-sucking Johnny B., whose development was arrested by a sexually abusive mother. Michael’s mind-body exercises involve breathing and making gentle movements that gradually bring about a wondrous, sympathetic alignment between patient and doctor. Some observers, such as nosy head nurse Frieda Carter, might deem this alignment sexual and thus inappropriate. Moreover, fastidious, rather obsessive Michael is attractive to women, and his affair with one of the younger nurses exposes his hubris. The author alternates among several narrative strands: Michael’s increasingly effective sessions with Kerry; extracts from her pre-accident journal addressed to her dear friend and former dance partner, Hugo; and scenes of mother hen Arlene’s anxious caretaking (husband Beresford has had a heart attack). The author could have provided more backstory about Michael’s own troubled parentage here; readers may well echo Arlene’s question, “What makes a person choose such a pain-ridden profession?” But Crane’s portraits are deeply human, and her novel benefits from the author’s background as a former ballet dancer and student of Buddhist psychology and psychokinetics.
An affecting work with a ring of authenticity.