I was pleased to mark World Mental Health Day last year with a post on dignity in fictional representations of mental health. This year’s theme is dignity in mental health first aid. Now, although I perceive therapy as a longer term project rather than first aid, its foundation in active listening is fundamental to our initial response to others in distress. And, as no-one can engage in therapy unless they actively want to, it’s an approach that bestows dignity, so what better day to celebrate my series on fictional therapists by introducing you to a couple of new ones? As a finale, I’ve got a piece of flash fiction on combining short-term and long-term solutions to mental ill-health.
I was excited at the prospect of meeting my first fictional family therapist to add to the twenty-four individual and couple therapists who have gone before. But, while I found little fault in Ester’s professional practice, she doesn’t fit my definition of a family therapist who I’d expect to involve the whole family in her sessions. I suppose the book blurb describes her as such to emphasise the disjunction between her calm approach to the problems within other families and the fragmentation of her own.
Beautifully written, Between a Wolf and a Dog is about the work of marriage, sisterhood and the endless project of mothering. It’s also about facing our mortality, coming-of-age and the challenge of forgiveness. With an older woman photographer, it reminded me a little of Still Life With Bread Crumbs. I’m not sure if my struggle to find much more to write about it is due to my head not being terribly engaged right now or because the novel is difficult to describe as it’s relevant to almost every aspect of the human condition. For me, the spread of viewpoints – and the additional characters and the dilemmas introduced through Ester’s counselling sessions – is slightly distancing, although the poignant finale was just right.
Thanks to Scribe for my copy. Apologies for this somewhat truncated review.
Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux is published by Faber and Faber – and I bought my own copy. Dr Webster is my twenty-sixth fictional therapist.
A two-year wait for an assessment? She could be dead by then.
“You can have a therapy dog in the meantime.”
She imagined a big brown dog barking at the juicy bits. Why not? If dogs could sniff out landmines and prophesy an epileptic fit.
Bruno was bright, but not that bright. Even so, his exuberance hauled her from her bed. The rhythms of walking soothed her. His antics dragged laughter from her belly. His wagging tail drew her into conversation with strangers.
Two years flew by. She still wanted therapy. But only if she could keep the dog.
Thanks for all your good wishes in relation to the Polari prize winner announcement on Friday. As you probably know by now, it was won by Paul McVeigh with Juliette Jacques as runner-up. It was good to meet them both at the event on Friday, along with two of the other shortlisted writers. I’m now looking forward to appearing with Polari on Tour in Nottingham in a couple of weeks’ time.