cover image The Behavior of Love

The Behavior of Love

Virginia Reeves. Scribner, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5011-8350-8

Reeves (Work Like Any Other) forms an intense love triangle between a doctor, his wife, and one of his patients across the 1970s and ’80s in her introspective latest. Psychologist Ed Malinowski recently moved to Montana to oversee the Boulder River School and Hospital, a chronically underfunded and understaffed mental institution. In order to quell his wife Laura’s fears about his long sessions with, and not entirely professional praise for, his 16-year-old epileptic patient Penelope, Ed encourages Laura to come to the institution to teach art once a week. The plan backfires and Laura grows more weary of Ed’s denials. In an effort to save his marriage, Ed releases Penelope to her parents as a shining example of his sweeping deinstitutionalization plans that are criticized by state officials and family members of the institutionalized. Soon, Laura is pregnant, but Ed misses the early birth of their son when he rushes to visit Penelope in the hospital after she abruptly stops her seizure medications. Things quickly fall apart for the characters—an unmoored Ed drifts through a period of womanizing and heavy drinking, until a medical crisis brings all three together in unexpected, difficult ways. Readers who enjoy complex depictions of the lingering commitments of relationships will be swept away by Reeves’s crisp, powerful novel. (May)