“Sorrow is concealed in gilded palaces, and there’s no escaping it.”
–The Double, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
PETE – in his late 20s, a guy who can blend into the background of any room. He’s made enough traumatic emotional messes to be guarded and measured, avoiding any big emotion.
MAYA – in her late 20s, a woman whose default setting is lively joy, but since her husband’s death she hasn’t had the energy, or even looked very hard, though she’s working on getting it back.
WENDY – in her late 20s, a sweet, thoughtful woman who’s too nervous to be completely supportive when her friend needs her.
DOCTOR – in his 60s, a warm and connected psychiatrist who still holds himself at a good, professional reserve (though this character is written as male here, the role could be played by any gender).
FRIEND (voice) – in his late 20s, affable but distant.
When therapist Becky discovers an unexpected pregnancy, it stirs something deep inside of her. She finds herself thinking back to the life of one of her patients, Lathsamy, who was sex trafficked as a child. Lathsamy is Becky’s foil as she comes to terms with her own childhood pain, which she ignored for so many years.
The Therapy Journal, a novel by Steven Wineman, revels in introspection. Wineman uses Becky’s journey to explore the power of memory and the damage of childhood sexual assault. He breaks Rebecca’s character into several parts: there’s Becky Therapist, who quizzes and soothes her. There’s 8-year-old-Becky, the part of herself that was cordoned off and abandoned after an unsettling childhood incident. And then there’s Rebecca herself. Rebecca’s narration is fairly self-involved, and completely unfiltered. She is wrapped up in her pain, unable to see her situation clearly: to her, her mother is a total narcissist, her father is incompetent and uncaring, and even her best friend is too “self-involved” for Rebecca’s taste. As a reader, it can be frustrating to be stuck inside of Becky’s limited perspective, watching her push away everyone close to her over minor incidents, but Wineman paints an accurate picture of a person in psychic pain.
Reading Becky examine her life and her own shortcomings in such full detail mimics the frustration of a therapist dealing with annoying patient. In one of Becky’s dialogues with herself as therapist, she says, “I mean here I am, mouthing off and acting like a petulant little girl and if you’re good with that, well, great but how is that helping me make this decision?”
However, that indecision is the point of this novel. It feels a bit like listening in on someone’s actual therapy appointments: a little bit uncomfortable, and slow-paced at times, but also morbidly fascinating in a voyeuristic sense. The author puts his background in mental health work to good use, making the problems Becky faces as she struggles to come to terms with her past, feel realistic. Some parts of the novel are more compelling than others (8-year-old Becky sounds more like a sarcastic teenager than the voice of a child), but on the whole it hangs together as the psychological exploration of a troubled character. Anyone interested in seeing an adult woman come to terms with repressed memories and childhood sexual abuse would enjoy reading this book.
The Therapy Journal will be released October 22, 2017 from Golden Antelope. For more information visit http://goldenantelope.com/index.php/news/41-steven-wineman-s-the-therapy-journal-is-coming-soon
The crank of your wrist,
the flex-action of your tendons
pries the brakes from my Chevrolet Prizm,
rains rust on your face
and when you punch the tire
to knock it loose
I won’t take it personally.
The baby appeared on the doorstep of 12.5 Pleasant Lane at 9:37 in the morning on Friday, while Kate was watching the local news and Andy was in the shower upstairs. There was a loud rap on the front door, and she thought briefly about her roommate Hannah’s excessive online shoe purchasing habit. Kate opened the door and was about to scream but the baby was asleep and she wanted to hear the news so she decided not to.
“Forecasts are looking steadily grim for Poughkeepsie this afternoon— the heat is proving itself relentless, and there have been reports of dogs melting in the streets. To prevent your dogs from melting we advise you to keep them inside. Should you happen to see a dog unattended be sure to remind it of the dangers of 116 degree weather, as they often do not watch the news.”
The baby was in a plastic bin without a lid, one of those Rubbermaid containers from Target with the foldable handles. It was laying on a purple fleece blanket that was folded hamburger-hotdog and was wearing a cop-themed jumpsuit. “My hero wears a badge!” was embroidered in swirly letters. Continue reading