A TV psychologist shrinks from facing her own sibling rivalry issues.
Reagan Bishop is the token talk therapist on the Chicago-based cable talk show I Need a Push. Along with a team of other mental health professionals, including Deva, a New-Age healer (she of the autocorrect malapropisms from Lancaster’s Here I Go Again, 2013), and Dr. Karen, a psychotropic pill peddler, Reagan is charged with “pushing” guests who have agreed to undergo televised treatment to overcome their compulsions, obsessions and phobias in full view of Oprah-contender Wendy Winsberg’s studio audience. Off screen, Reagan deals with her own far-less-tractable psychological challenges. Her parents favor her sisters Geri, an overweight hairdresser, and Mary Mac, mother of eight, vaunting their mundane achievements while ignoring Reagan’s Chicago Marathon time and Good Morning America appearances. After her ambition required her to dump her good-hearted surfer boyfriend, Boyd, the now 30-something Reagan has nothing on her romantic horizon except Sebastian, an equally driven professional who’s just not that into her. When Push is picked up by the networks, suddenly Reagan is faced with a career-ending quandary—the time she now has to achieve her mental makeovers is drastically reduced, thanks to her new budget-conscious boss, Kassel. After her attempt to deter a starlet from stalking a hip-hop superstar backfires catastrophically and hilariously, Reagan’s job is on the line. She enters into an unholy alliance with Deva, whose treatment protocols she has hitherto found as abhorrent as Dr. Karen’s drugs. Using charms and amulets, Reagan astral-projects herself into her TV patients’ bodies long enough to mime a cure for the cameras. But her family still seems determined to belittle her. Lancaster’s unerring ear for hipster parlance and passive-aggressive family snark is on full display—but it isn’t until Reagan risks her most daring body swap yet that the novel finds its narrative stride.
A meandering midsection—extended digressions on Godfather shtick, anyone?—may discourage some readers from persevering until the truly satisfying closing twist.