The Hypnotist’s Love Story

9780425260937_p0_v2_s260x420When one of Liane Moriarty’s funny, quirky books appears on my library list, I know it will be a mood lifter, and The Hypnotist’s Love Story was no exception. With the style I came to appreciate in What Alice Forgot and The Husband’s Secret, Moriarty connects unlikely possibilities with ordinary circumstances and likable characters.

The story revolves around Ellen O’Farrell and the clients she tries to help with hypnotherapy. From the bride to be who is trying to give up smoking to the overweight lawyer, Moriarty mixes serious issues with gentle caring – and a few laughs. When Ellen meets Patrick, a widower, who has a former lover who is stalking him, the scary incidents dovetail with her new romance. Saskia, the stalker, is one of Ellen’s clients.  All ends well but not before the plot takes some strange turns.

With not as many surprises as her later work, The Hypnotist’s Love Story is still a page-turning fast read and a welcome change of pace.

What Alice Forgot

9780425247440_p0_v1_s260x420A friend of mine always calculates her birthday at 29, celebrating its anniversary, and not admitting to aging beyond that age.  In Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot, Alice hits her head and loses the memory of ten years just before her 40th birthday, making her 29 again.

After Alice falls off her bike in spin class, she wakes up to an unfamiliar world.  Her clothes seem to belong to someone else, and she has no memory of her three children, her impending divorce, or the death of her best friend.   Unfortunately, she also doesn’t recognize the person she has become over the last ten years; evidently, her former self was happier, friendlier, and a better version.  As Alice ponders her predicament, Elizabeth, her older sister, fills in the blanks of the missing years for the reader with letters to her therapist.

A quick, easy romance with a humorous premise – picked for discussion by one of my book clubs.  Nice diversion…who wouldn’t want a chance for a “do-over.”

Pictures of You

When someone comes into your life at its lowest point to help you survive – maybe that’s an angel. In Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You, a car accident leaves nine-year-old Sam confused but hopeful, not realizing his angel is the woman who drove the other car.

Leavitt weaves the story around two unhappy women in their thirties who have decided to run away. Isabelle is leaving her unfaithful husband Luke, when she discovers he has been carrying on an affair with another woman who is now pregnant. April seems happily married to Charlie, with a devoted relationship to her asthmatic son, Sam; her reason for escape is a mystery that continues through much of the action.

The families, both living in Cape Cod, are brought together by the two cars colliding on a deserted foggy road. Young Sam, thinking Isabelle is an angel come to help him reconnect with his dead mother, finds comfort in her gentle overtures and a reprieve from his grief when she teaches him how to use a camera. Sam’s affinity for photography, and Isabelle’s yearning to leave the small-town photo shop to become a professional photographer in New York motivate a connection that eventually leads to Charlie.

Although the premise sounds trite, Leavitt does not let the relationships fall into the expected formula. The characters’ vulnerabilities in a time of crisis ring true as do the reactions of those around them – “you find out who your real friends are.” The drama focuses on how lives change irrevocably, not only because of the accident and how the survivors try to cope, but also how judgmental opinions shade decisions.

Burning the Evidence

Do you keep a diary?  Do you record your anger and anxieties, or keep notes reminding you of people, events, times to remember? In her article for the New York Times – Burning the Diaries  – Dominique Browning describes her cathartic experience – secure that her children will not discover her secrets.   In this year’s Man Booker Award winning The Sense of An Ending, Julian Barnes has his character, Victoria, burn a diary left by Adrian, who has committed suicide.  But a letter written by the main character survives to haunt him.

Although Jane Austen wrote over 3,000 letters, only 160 survive; her sister destroyed or edited most.  Lewis Carroll’s diaries from 1858 – 1862 mysteriously disappeared – effectively hiding his inspiration or notes for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written in 1862.

The second best advice a friend passed on to me – keep a journal, assigning emotions to paper as the vehicle for cleansing – sometimes better to quietly write it than say it.

The best advice:  destroy the pages so that no one could read them, and take offense at mutterings that were meant to be private.  Browning notes in her article that rereading her diaries only brought back miseries better either forgotten or retooled as Tony Webster tries in the Julian Barnes novel.

The shredder is just as effective as burning – and without the cleanup Browning dreads.

Related Review: The Sense of An Ending