cover image The Office of Desire

The Office of Desire

Martha Moody, . . Riverhead, $24.95 (307pp) ISBN 978-1-59448-949-5

Moody (Best Friends ) stages this sharply observed tale of office relationships gone very wrong at a small Ohio medical practice. When Dr. Will Strub marries office nurse Alicia, he becomes increasingly involved in the local fundamentalist church. That puts him somewhat at odds with his fellow doctor and business partner, Dr. Hap Markowitz, who defines himself “as a non-observant, God-fearing Jew.” Meanwhile, middle aged office receptionist Caroline begins her own new relationship with a 72-year-old patient named Fred, while Hap devotes his spare time to his seriously ill wife, making office manager Brice literally the odd man out. The slow descent into insanity by one of the characters leads to a tragedy that affects all involved; gay relationships, evangelical fervor, amputation and infidelity all play in. “There is a point where loyalty became a sickness, where faithfulness to someone else became a way to destroy yourself,” Hap observes, and each of Moody's well-drawn characters embodies that statement in his or her own way. Hap and Caroline alternate with first person narration, which lends Upstairs Downstairs –like shifts in perspective, which can be distracting. Moody keeps things moving, though, and gets the details right, whether adding up emotional balances, Prozac samples or a patient's bill. (Aug.)