Synopses & Reviews
What happens when the therapist's couch becomes a bed of nails?
Praised as "a true comic artist" (Janet Malcolm), Daniel Menaker turns the patient-analyst relationship on its ear in this "witty, incisive novel" (Chicago Tribune).
Jake Singer, a young New York City schoolteacher, has a lot going for him -- and even more holding him back. Plagued by anxiety over his conflicts with his father, his stalled career at a prestigious prep school, and his current single status, he lands on the couch of Dr. Ernesto Morales, the Cuban-Catholic-Freudian analyst from hell. Morales's slash-and-burn sessions are worthy of the Spanish Inquisition; his sarcastic remarks and fractured phrases prod at Jake even as he makes his way into the upscale world of wealthy
Manhattanite Allegra Marshall. And slowly, Jake begins to come to terms with life, love, and other irrationalities. Like it or not, the Treatment may just be crazy enough to work -- and may bring Jake face to face with what he most wants to avoid: his own humanity.
About the Author
worked at The New Yorker
for twenty-six years, twenty of them as Senior Editor. He has won two O. Henry Awards and is the author of two short story collections, The Old Left
and Friends and Relations.
Now Senior Literary Editor at Random House, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for discussion for Daniel Menaker's The Treatment. We hope that these ideas will enrich your discussion and increase your enjoyment of the book.
1. The theme of motherhood is a strong one throughout The Treatment. Discuss how Jake's life would have been different had he not lost his mother; and Sarah's life, if she not given up her daughter. What would Freud have thought about Jake's attraction to Allegra, and his Mother's Day gift to her? What do you think?
2. What does Jake's driving away of Samira -- and the way which he does it -- tell us about him?
3. Is Jake's defiance of Proctor during the Scholarship Committee meeting a case of standing up for what is right or a disguised attempt at professional suicide?
4. It is interesting to note that before the author allows us even a glimpse of the infant Emily, we learn the whole tragic story behind how she came to be. Why do you think the author does that?
5. Discuss what an enormous step it was for Jake to take Allegra and the children to visit his father that first time. Was Jake able to pull it off due to Dr. Morales' help, or was it the changed, improved circumstances of his life that made it possible?
6. Why did Sarah's husband Paul really want to get Emily back?
7. Do you see Jake's first trip to New Berkshire as the reason Emily remained with Allegra, or would Sarah have made the same decision without his intervention?
8. How do you find Jake's continued relationship with Sarah -- odd, comforting, inappropriate, noble? Why?
9. Did Dr. Morales talk or did Mrs. Glass snoop? And if she did, did he allow it to happen? (Remember, there are no accidents.)
10. How would you characterize the relationship between Jake and Dr. Morales, beyond patient/doctor? Is the doctor saving Jake's life, as he claims? Is Jake better off after seven years of analysis, or worse?
11. What was Gordon's burned hand testimony to?
12. Has Jake been waiting for Something to Happen? What has he done to make Something Happen?
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE Author -
Q: You set this novel in the seventies. Was this to allow Jake to age, to have it take place when vastly different adoption laws were in effect, or was there another reason?
A: Analysis was more in the air then, and it allowed me, I have to admit, to match Jake's age more closely with my own.
Q: Would it bother you if some readers rooted for Sarah to reclaim Emily?
A: No. Every reader brings his own set of beliefs and convictions and sense of what's right to a novel.
Q: From what black hole of the psyche did you come up with a character such as Ernesto Morales?
A: The second from the left. He's based on five or six different "models," including my own personal tyrant fantasy.
Q: OK, we have to ask. Have you yourself been on the receiving end of the treatment?
A: Hmm. I wonder why you feel you have to ask that. Perhaps you should get some help.
Q: After twenty-six years, you left editing a magazine to become a book editor. Why? Are the jobs more similar than different, or vice versa?
A: I left because it was a chance to do something different, because the multitasking involved in being an editor at The New Yorker seemed to me to be a good preparation for the varied challenges of being a book editor. The jobs are enormously different in terms of time schedules -- a magazine a week vs. five to ten books a year -- but in terms of editorial work and the need to balance twenty or thirty burdens at the same time (and, of course, in terms of office politics), they're remarkably similar. Magazines have advertising, books don't -- that's nice. On the other hand, books don't have cartoons. That's too bad.
Copyright © 1998 by Daniel Menaker