SHRINKING by William Lehr


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A nameless son laments his dying father in a brief prologue to this dopey novel. Tobias J. Barlow, an eminent Chicago psychiatrist, has been hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage. Unbeknowst to him, his grieving son has discovered a series of tapes, recorded years earlier, in which Barlow ""shrinks"" himself, blathering details of a miserable personal life resulting from the murder of his seven-year-old daughter Melissa and a subsequent divorce from his wife Holly. The ""novel"" is the transcripts of these tapes, presented by the son in hopes that we, and he, can penetrate the reclusive mind of his unhappy, bumbling father. From them we learn that Barlow's eldest son, Teddy, abandoned the family, guilt-ridden over losing sight of Melissa the day she was murdered, and that someone had been tormenting Barlow by playing tape recordings of Teddy's suicide (real or simulated?--we don't know) over the phone. Complicating things further, Barlow is haunted by the ghost of his grandfather, who guides him through this spiritual hell. Clearly the shrink is crackers. The solution? Primal therapy--not that it matters. Barlow literally orgasms away his demons, regains his wife's confidence, wins back the not-dead Teddy by threatening his own suicide and then prepares his soul to die in an epilogue in which we learn (surprise!) that the anonymous son behind the transcriptions is Teddy himself. In the end all is forgiven. And forgotten. Thin stuff.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1987
Publisher: Mercury House--dist. by Kampmann (9 E. 40 St., New York, NY 10016)