THE GOOD PATIENT by Kristin Waterfield Duisberg
Kirkus Star


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An intense and moving debut about a young woman’s nervous breakdown and slow recovery.

On the surface, Darien Gilbertson seems like a happily married version of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Sex and the City heroine. Smart, smart-mouthed, and full of the kind of irony that can only be obtained with an Ivy League degree, Darien works at a hip New York p.r. firm, lives in Manhattan with her hotshot lawyer husband Robert, eats out a lot at all the latest restaurants, and usually spends weekends at one friend or another’s quaint house in the country. Darien’s only problem is that she has a very bad temper and often becomes violent—with herself. It’s a problem that has developed over a long period of time. In college she was a nymphomaniac. Later she became a binge drinker. Since her marriage she’s taken to hitting things, for no apparent reason, with her arms or head. When she breaks an arm smashing a bathroom wall, Robert becomes alarmed and takes her to see a psychiatrist. The acid-tongued Darien is not a good candidate for psychotherapy, but Dr. Lindholm is a determined woman. She prescribes antidepressants and convinces Darien to talk about her life. The progress is slow and halting, and after Darien nearly fractures her skull in another incident she’s committed to a mental hospital upstate. Much of the trouble stems from the grief that Darien still feels over the death of her twin sister Dayton, who committed suicide at 14. Robert never even knew that Dayton existed, and Darien herself seems to have literally forgotten about her for many years. Is this a case of recovered memory? Or simply survivor’s guilt? In any event, it’s going to be a long, slow climb back to the kind of normal daily life that most people don’t even realize is sanity.

Mercifully light on the psychobabble: a sharp and unsentimental glimpse of emotional collapse and recovery, narrated with compassion and a welcome sense of humor.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 2003
ISBN: 0-312-30039-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2002