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THE OFFICE OF DESIRE by Martha Moody Kirkus Star


by Martha Moody

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-59448-949-5
Publisher: Riverhead

A bracingly dark comedy from physician Moody (Best Friends, 2001) about the unraveling of an Ohio medical office that seems a haven for its employees until sex and religion infect the practice.

Hap Markowitz, the brains, and William Strub, the personality, carry on a successful internal medicine partnership supported by a small staff of three. Caroline the receptionist, who narrates the story along with Hap, doesn’t let her prosthetic leg keep her from a string of lusty lovers drawn to her sunny warmth. Alice the nurse is younger than Caroline, an ambitious single mother who dotes over her brilliant teenage son. Brice the money manager lives with his overbearing mother. The three familiar if dissimilar workplace “types” have built a three-way friendship that keeps the office running smoothly and happily until William, recently divorced, finds himself drawn to Alice. Their ensuing affair and marriage disrupt the office balance. Alice stops hanging out with Caroline and Brice. Caroline and Brice’s friendship is ruined after she sleeps with him out of misguided sympathy, although she knows he is not attracted to women. As marital bliss with Alice sours, William turns to internet pornography, then becomes a Christian zealot. At first, Alice resists but soon she is at least as fervent as William. Preoccupied by his wife’s sudden, fast spreading cancer and subsequent death, Hap is too distracted to resist when William and Alice start selling Christian vitamins in the front office. And only Caroline notices when Brice becomes dangerously obsessed with Alice’s son Jesse, who bravely acknowledges that he is gay to his newly fundamentalist parents. Long before the inevitable malpractice case connected to the vitamins, what began as light satire has turned into genuine tragedy. Even as her characters make disastrous mistakes, Moody, a genuinely original voice, takes an unsentimental approach that never denies life’s possibilities.

A provocative, intensely moving novel of ideas and opposing philosophies presented by deeply flawed, deeply human characters.