cover image The Good Psychologist

The Good Psychologist

Noam Shpancer, Holt, $24 (256p) ISBN 978-08050-9259-2

The unnamed psychologist at the center of Shpancer's intelligent and suspenseful debut is at a crossroads—at the college where he teaches a night class, his brightest student is also the most troubled; his newest patient is an exotic dancer who may or may not be suffering panic attacks on stage; and his former lover, for whom he still pines, is about to move away with their love child. The chapters are divided among classroom lectures, psychotherapy sessions, and personal reflections, and though all these are often narrative killers, Shpancer, a psychologist and professor, makes them work, thanks largely to cutting dialogue and sharply defined characters. The psychobabble doesn't suck the air out of the book, but creates a lens through which to view the other events in the novel. The overall sense of intense interiority is at odds with the too clinical distance the narrator maintains from the reader, but the insights into matters of interrogation and perception are sublime, as is the fluid interplay between the narrator's personal and professional lives. (Aug.)