cover image My Friend Natalia

My Friend Natalia

Laura Lindstedt, trans. from the Finnish by David Hackston. Liveright, $24 (240p) ISBN 978-1-63149-817-6

Lindstedt makes her English-language debut with an uneven transgressive novel chronicling the relationship between an unnamed psychologist—whose gender Lindstedt leaves unspecified—and their patient. The psychologist narrates the story as a dishy, somewhat unhinged case study, beginning with graphic designer Natalia coming to them for help with obsessive sexual thoughts. After the first session, the psychologist realizes Natalia, who makes erudite, provocative digressions on cultural references, is perfect for the psychologist to practice the method they defended for their PhD, designed to let patients “bounce and rebound” through free association. Divided into weekly appointments, the chapters chronicle an intensifying mental and sexual power struggle between psychologist and patient, such as Natalia’s determination to keep time in the sessions with an alarm clock, and to bare her sexual prowess by sharing her sex tapes. Throughout the novel, Natalia riffs on Sartre, Beauvoir, and others, baiting the psychologist with sexually charged critiques of patriarchal philosophy (“Sartre wrote: The female organ is like all other holes, a plea for existence”). Though often humorous, some of the arch prose falls flat (“The distance between her mouth and eyes was greater than scientifically proven patterns of beauty would allow”). Still, fans of subversive stories of psychoanalysis may want to take a look. Agent: Rhea Lyons, HG Literary. (Mar.)