ENVY by Kathryn Harrison


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Compared to most of Harrison’s heroes, Dr. William Moreland is statistically normal. But that doesn’t protect him from the floodtide of psychosexual anguish that washes over them all.

Although he’s a successful New York psychoanalyst with a perfect daughter—his son Luke died three years ago in a boating accident—Will Moreland lives in the shadow of the twin brother he hasn’t seen in 15 years. Mitch Moreland looks just like Will except for a wine mark that covers half his face, but he’s a champion long-distance swimmer, and when Will goes to his 25th college reunion, it’s Mitch that everybody asks about. Will has a suddenly burning question of his own for Elizabeth, a college ex-lover who now heads the burn unit at Johns Hopkins: Was Jennifer, the daughter she was pregnant with when she broke up with Will and abruptly married someone else, actually Will’s? Elizabeth reacts coldly, and Will, after a few months of his normal routine of fantasizing about every one of his female patients and actual coitus with Carole, the wife who ever since Luke’s death will only let him approach her from behind, writes her an apology and a promise not to pursue the question. He doesn’t know that it’s already pursuing him in a form he can’t imagine or control, and that it won’t stop until all the certainties of his life and his faith in himself have been shattered. The material shouts TV Movie of the Week—well, maybe not a network movie—but Harrison’s (The Seal Wife, 2002, etc.) measured, matter-of-fact prose gives each perverse twist of her pulpish plot a nasty kick, taking readers into the heart of Will’s deep sadness and out the other side.

An unsparing examination of the turbulent depths beneath an unsuspecting hero’s most unexceptionable-seeming fantasies, and a life patently too normal to be true.

Pub Date: July 19th, 2005
ISBN: 1-4000-6346-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2005


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