AUGUST BREAK by Edith Heal


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As with Judith Rossner's August, the title here refers to the psychiatric vacation month; but, while Rossner offered an unusually authentic, nuanced view of the analyst/patient relationship, this blurry novella is frail and unconvincing. Heal's N.Y.C. psychiatrist is youngish, happily married Dr. Tristam, apparently a non-Freudian who relies heavily on drug therapy. (The details of treatment remain vague.) And two of his patients react melodramatically to the separation anxiety of Dr. T.'s August departure: alcoholic Martin takes a $50 cab ride through Long Island in quixotic search of Dr. Tristam, finally driving away his put-upon wife; middle-aged Lila, much-married and already obsessed with her doctor, gets ever more frantic, lurching towards suicide. But meanwhile Dr. Tristam himself--an ambitious workaholic with hospital/research pressures as well as his private practice--is having a mild, ill-defined sort of nervous breakdown, with a lapse into obsessive adultery. . . though he eventually recovers well enough to resume his practice, now with more understanding of obsessed Lila. (""He had convinced her that she must trust him, forgive him for his desertion."") Finely written here and there--but thin and unpersuasive from opening traumas to pasted-on happy ending.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1984
Publisher: Sun & Moon (4330 Hartwick Rd., College Park, MD 20740)