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SHOULD YOU LEAVE? by Peter D. Kramer

SHOULD YOU LEAVE?

A Psychiatrist Explores Intimacy and Autonomy and the Nature of Advice

By Peter D. Kramer

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-81343-2
Publisher: Scribner

 Not only is this a stunning and moving look at the many- layered complexities of intimacy, it is also a neat literary trick. In the wake of his hugely successful Listening to Prozac (1993), psychiatrist Kramer was tempted to join the parade of psychotherapists who write books of advice; his would deal with the question of when to leave a troubled relationship. Instead, he has written a much bolder book that uses the tools of the advice trade while showing up their shortcomings. Addressing the reader as ``you,'' he also recalls the style of postmodern fiction--and indeed, that is what his admittedly fictive case histories often read like, as he presents the basic facts of a case, then recasts them over and over in various theoretical and therapeutic molds, each perspective leading to a different possible outcome in terms of what advice he might offer. Drawing on the work of Harry Stack Sullivan, Jean Baker Miller, and other theorists, he examines the poles of autonomy and intimacy, betrayal and trust, identification and differentiation as they affect relationships. A Jewish man marries a Catholic woman; they agree they will not raise their children in either religion; years later the wife decides their daughter must be taught the catechism. Should he leave? A husband and wife were high school sweethearts, brought together by the unhappiness of their family lives; but her new creative and successful career is fortifying her while her husband begins to whine and then almost takes a lover. Should she leave? In the guise of trying to give advice to the people in these and other cases, Kramer simultaneously explores the near-impossibility of giving advice: People are ultimately unknowable, their situations too complex, the therapist blinded by his own biases. Beautifully illustrating the passion, curiosity, intellect, and sensitivity therapists bring to their work, Kramer has produced a tour de force, a book of non-advice more illuminating than any how-to could ever be.