THE FATIGUE ARTIST by Lynne Sharon Schwartz


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A ruminative story of illness and healing that Schwartz (Leaving Brooklyn, 1989; Disturbances in the Field, 1983, etc.) makes as deep as a fever dream -- with that same fitfulness and moments of heightened clarity. When Laura, a 40-year-old writer who lives in New York, begins to experience headaches, sore throats, and a dizzying exhaustion, she's not convinced that she really has an illness. She suspects it may just be some form of reaction to the facts of her life -- including the death of her reporter husband, who was caught in the crossfire of a drug raid two years earlier, and her on-again, off-again lover, ""Q,"" who manages to turn up in her life each time she thinks she's ready to go on without him. When Laura finally visits a doctor, she learns it actually is an illness that has downed her, a form of chronic fatigue virus, for which the doctor can offer no prescription beyond ""get plenty of rest."" Rest she does, in her own restless way, seeking help from an acupuncturist and a tai chi teacher, taking a vacation with her stepdaughter, and, most of all, sorting through the scenes of her life until they form a picture she can understand and make peace with. That's when her recovery really begins. It's not a new idea that the healing process is actually a process of self-discovery, but Schwartz manages to make Laura's story all her own in its honesty, complexity, and finely drawn cast of characters: Even her low-key paean to alternative medicine comes off as something much more interesting than the New Age trendiness it might suggest. Not action-packed, but an intriguing journey through the metaphors of a modern illness -- and certainly written with intensive care.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1995
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Scribner