Margaret Reinhold, Author . Permanent $24 (160p) ISBN 978-1-57962-031-8

Eccentric, fearful and probably manic-depressive, Londoner Alex Porter is the protagonist of this debut novel by psychotherapist and nonfiction writer Reinhold. Working through his compulsions and obsessions with his psychiatrist, Dr. Gertrude Katzenheimer, Porter—neurotically precise about his food intake, purification rituals and moral behavior, yet tantalized by luxuries that make him feel wicked and unclean—becomes involved in the messy lives of two brothers and their wives. First he notices Lilac, waifish siren wife of Joshua Jones, on the street near his house; this chance sighting is followed by an encounter with besotted Jerome, Joshua's brother, who is conducting a secret affair with Lilac. In no time Jerome is confiding in Porter about his relationships with his wife and his brother, and about his tortured memories of their mother. Judgmental Porter relays details back to Dr. Katzenheimer, but also cultivates a friendship with Lilac and finds himself counseling both lovers separately. The remaining partners (stern Joshua and shrill and angry Beatrice, Jerome's wife) eventually enter Porter's orbit as well; as Porter continually worries during his sessions with Dr. K., a terrible fate awaits them as the melodrama plays out. At issue is whether all of this is really happening—or whether, as Dr. K. wonders, it's all in Porter's head. It's tempting to think that a world in which every character jumps at the opportunity to spout hackneyed theories about maternal influence is a sendup of psychotherapy. Would that it were so. Simplistic psychological stereotypes and stilted prose render this novel one long, awkward talking cure. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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