A novel examines a clinical psychologist, the healing power of verse, and a journey to self-discovery.
Life for Vera Lewis is unsatisfying. A typical evening begins with too many glasses of Chablis and ends with “clearing up dishes and misunderstandings with Raymond,” her egocentric Washington lobbyist spouse. After one client commits suicide and another is convicted of violent crimes, she questions her merit as a psychologist. She’s unable to connect with those around her, and conversations with friends and co-workers are brimming with thoughts unsaid. In short, Vera longs for more: “I would like to be filled with passion, for my work, my husband, to feel a constant tingle in my hands as though I were touching skin.” The only person who can break through the monotony is Marcel Malone, a painfully shy client who expresses himself through sonnets, haiku, and carefully metered speech. In an effort to better understand him, Vera, too, immerses herself in the world of poetry. Watts (Lessons for Tangueros, 2011) is a Ph.D., and this is where his background in academia bleeds through. Disappointed at the selections in a certain anthology or a dull chapter that she had to skim through, Vera embarks on one-sided arguments with scholars that read like a review of literature. In the midst of her adventures in verse, Vera is increasingly haunted by her past and disenchanted with her marriage, becoming dependent on sessions with Marcel. Jealous of his gradual recovery, she spirals into near-alcoholism, solitude, and self-doubt. At times, it can be hard to empathize with Vera. She is reserved, formal, and relentlessly analytical. Her world is one of white affluence—lunches at exclusive restaurants, bottles of expensive wine, showy dinner parties, and friends who are World Bank executives. But she is vindicated in the book’s final chapters, which offer a glimpse into life’s beauty and the opportunities for redemption. A dense and loaded work of fiction, this cerebral novel should certainly appeal to intellectuals and fans of feminist literature.
A slow, but ultimately rewarding tale of a lonely psychologist and her poetic client.