Fiction presents a unique opportunity to learn in depth from other people’s pain, mistakes, and triumphs of spirit. That’s especially true when the author is a renowned psychotherapist.
A Man Who Thinks He Knows Who Really Killed the President
What happens when the scars of the country become personal? When a man takes on the sins of the nation, what does he become? What might he do?
George has a problem with time. He doesn’t remember he relives. He tries to anchor himself in time by creating a 10,000 page novel that threatens his health and his marriage to the love of his life. He narrates from the year 2033, but most of the action is in the present tense, in various time periods, centering on the Kennedy years and the doubts they spawned.
Amid the melding of reality and imagination is a very real love story that began with two children lost on the beach who grew up to help each other, against all odds, through a crippling car accident and a nervous breakdown. While George writes his novel and tries to subvert the plan, hatched in a state mental hospital, to murder the President, Madeline overcomes handicaps of childhood trauma, three years of wheelchair confinement, and constant cultural bigotry. “She was the first woman, the first African American, and the first miscengenator” to become a named partner in a prestigious Wall Street law firm. Their connection endures many challenges in life and persists well after her death.
At first George’s novel, Primordial Swamps, distorts reality, until reality begins to distort the novel, in this allegorical tale of how public events and prejudice shape individual psychology and vice versa.
Henry-Henry, Shadows & Light
We have to struggle to maintain a sense of humanity in modern times. It’s a struggle that creates inner voices of conflict and covert guilt and shame. In most of us, these voices are faint. In some, they bellow.
A fallen priest with a dual personality tries to find his humanity amid delusion, child abuse, and murder. The narrator of this psychological thriller is one half of the dual personality. The other half, HENRY TWO, has a job, lives in the real world, and wants to be normal. Flashbacks of HENRY ONE’s brief time as a Catholic priest reveal that normal isn’t possible. The story is a fascinating depiction of what happens when interior dialogue, familiar to us all, is amplified and magnified by grave mistakes and trauma.
At the brink of oblivion, when the Henrys can retreat no longer from the real world, they begin a dangerous journey to redemption, confronting the dark shadows of child sex trafficking along the way.
Psychotherapist Stosny’s (Soar Above, 2016, etc.) first foray into fiction is a dark thriller following a man who, despite an iffy grasp on reality, hunts sex traffickers.
Henry One isn’t merely hearing a voice in his head as shrinks have suggested. He’s sharing his body with Henry Two. The latter has a life outside the apartment, while One has been a recluse for the last 10 years since his superiors at Our Lady of Good Counsel asked him to leave the priesthood. The personalities argue constantly. When Two mocks One for his earlier, agonizing experience at the church, One tries to kill him. Doctors, of course, consider it a suicide attempt and send Henry to the Saints of Mercy Mission, a home for former clergy with mental health issues. Tensions decrease between the personalities, and though their collective reality is gradually unraveling inside the mission, they’re both anxious when they hear about its imminent closure. Being outside for the first time in two decades, however, gives them a chance to concentrate on what’s tangible, especially strange new technologies like iPhones and Google. But they discover their true focus when reading about sex-trafficking operations involving children. Convinced the ringleaders have multiple personalities, One and Two think they can help the FBI find them. Stosny’s integration of dual personalities into the storyline helps the novel stand out, and the disorder becomes more than just a convenient plot device. Readers, for example, may forget Two isn’t actually there; characters often note Henry’s tendency to say “we” when referring to himself; and from Henry One’s perspective, Two genuinely snatches a torn magazine out of his hands. Outside forces typically spur the plot twists. The story gets gloomier and more harrowing in the final act, but narrator Henry One provides slivers of light throughout with a cynical but earnest voice: “Reality is a lot harder than I imagined.” Stosny’s typically dry descriptions provide a counterpoint to the plot’s somber content, like simply noting a children’s toothpaste commercial that follows a TV report on child sex-trafficking victims.
The lead’s dual personality gives readers two absorbing characters, regardless of who can or can’t see them.