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The Good Psychologist by Noam Shpancer
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's review
Oct 08, 11

bookshelves: professionallit
Read from October 03 to 08, 2011

Meh. This is the type of novel that Yalom does much better. One might call it a "novel of ideas," or as Yalom might say, a "teaching novel" about psychology, a novel where the plot and characters have been constructed basically as mouthpieces for conveying psychological ideas. I usually don't care for these types of novels, finding them contrived, overly heavy in dialogue, and lacking in characterization. I'm a little more open when the focus is psychology because I'm always up for learning more about my field, and Yalom's books kind of work for me. This one, less so.

The nameless main character of this book is a psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety disorders and teaches a psychology class at some sort of institution. I hate to nitpick here, but I was a little confused about the type of institution he taught at. The students seemed somewhat unmotivated and lackluster for graduate students, but the rambling lectures on psychotherapy (which we were treated to verbatim; I don't know how interested a lay reader would be) seemed rather technique-focused and sophisticated and beyond what I would expect for undergraduates. Okay, whatever.

Basically there are three subplots here. One subplot focuses on the psychologist as a teacher and his relationships with some of his students. Actually, subplot is probably a misnomer because nothing really happened there -- just a lot of lectures and interactions with students. The second subplot focuses on the psychologist's newest client, an exotic dancer who has developed a fear of dancing at her club. The climactic event here was not nearly as earth-shattering as I would have expected. Finally, the third subplot is about the psychologist's doomed basically one-way love affair with a woman in another town with whom he has a child. She has moved on (actually, she was never really that into it to begin with); he hasn't.

Eh. The bottom line is, although it's always fun for me to read about another psychologist working clinically and teaching, I never really felt like I got to know the main character or could empathize with his choices and struggles. None of the other characters particularly grabbed me either, and the plot (such as it was) didn't compensate.

It was a nice try, but the book didn't work for me.
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