Envy: A Novel
by Kathryn Harrison
A Summer Read for Smart People
A review by Anna Godbersen
Ah, therapists. So deft with other people's problems, so clumsy with their own.
And Will Moreland, a psychoanalyst and the central character in Kathryn Harrison's
Envy, is a man with problems. For starters, he has lost his young son Luke
in a boating accident that, while he wasn't exactly at fault for, occurred on
his watch. Since the accident, his wife Carole (she of the always composed demeanor
and the irritating yoga addiction) has become sexually distant. He hasn't seen
his brother, Mitch -- a famous swimmer and Will's identical, save for a port-wine
stain, twin -- since he and Carole's wedding. And, just to make things really
interesting, he is plagued by sexual fantasies, even in his professional life,
"leaving him at the mercy of ultralustful thoughts featuring whoever sits in the
chair opposite his." When Will attends his college reunion, he runs into a haughty
ex-girlfriend, who (he discovers) may or may not have been pregnant when she left
him twenty-five years ago. This is enough to bring Will to the brink. Enter Will's
newest patient, a tattooed, vulgar-mouthed young woman with a thing for older
men. And soon enough, Will is up to his knees (up to his waist?) in that old Freudian
stew of sex and family, family and sex, with a bed trick and some questionable
paternity thrown in for good measure.
Harrison, the author of several novels and memoirs, writes with the deceptive simplicity one might find in a smart thriller. And Envy is a thriller of a kind, albeit one rooted in the psychology of family and informed by Greek tragedy; it is a carefully packed novel that works by slowly, exactingly removing layer upon layer of betrayal and surprise.
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