Review by Tess Tabak
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