Review: Next Therapist Please by Laurie Finkelstein

NB- I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. So that’s what today’s post is, enjoy. The cover and synopsis are below, so that I don’t forget to include them.

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I tried to match the artsy-beach-town vibe of the book with this picture, but probably failed. So let’s just focus on the cover, shall we? Doesn’t that look like a perfect vacation read?

Blessed with anxiety, depression, and OCD, Janie Weiss has seen her fair share of therapists throughout her life. So many, she doesn’t even refer to them by name, only by number. Some have helped her, some have not. But she has learned from all of them.

Years after her last therapist, #6 to be exact, Janie finds herself widowed and navigating a new life filled with old and new anxieties. She loves expressing herself through her art, but she’s wondering if she’s ready to move on in her personal life.

From Janie’s cottage on Balboa Island to the Doc’s home in Palm Springs, follow Janie on her quest for health and happiness as she recalls each therapist that came into her life. Grab a cocktail, make a toast, and enter Janie’s world in this humorous, heartwarming novel.

I should probably also mention that while I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers, some plot points are difficult to hint at without giving you a fair idea of the end result, so if you really want to avoid spoilers, it’s probably best to not read this review.

I didn’t actually realise that this book was a romance when I decided to read it; it is, and I liked it anyway. I’ll admit that I was a little put off, when first reading the book, because it initially seemed as though Janie’s ex-therapist was attempting to manipulate her into a relationship; an ethically murky situation at best. My concerns were allayed, however, by the mature way in which Rob and Janie approached their relationship. Rob’s confession about his hesitation seemed believable, rather than an eleventh-hour solve, and I appreciated the addressing, at several points, of Janie’s ultimate agency in the matter1.

I liked the moments of absurdity and humour sprinkled throughout Next Therapist Please—having been raised catholic, Janie’s church experiences were especially hilarious. It actually reminded me a lot of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. If you enjoy reading about the creative, absurd and heart-warming situations that the titular Stephanie Plum finds herself in, consider giving Next Therapist Please a go.

Some parts of the plot seemed a little convenient, but again, Next Therapist Please is a romance novel; not a crime thriller. If the main characters start off wealthy, single and attractive; that just allows for more page-time for the relationship to grow and be explored. While we’re on the topic—I was glad that Janie’s mourning is never discounted, despite the tragedy that befell her preceding (and helping to allow) the plot. Her grief is never discounted—in its portrayal in the book, or Dr Rob’s treatment of it.

The only other complaint I had about the book is that the way scenes and outfits are described seemed a little clunky at first, but this is revealed to be the way that Janie views the world; and what at first seems like awkward writing is actually skillfully executed character development.

I liked the subtle growth of Janie and Rob’s relationship. A lot of the narrative tension2 in romance novels can be spoiled by the obvious love interest the main character will inevitably end the book with. With Next Therapist Please, Janie started by calling Rob Doc, and only as she grew to know (and like) him as a person did this change. For his part, Rob got to know Janie as a person, not judging her by her past as his patient, or reducing her to a tragic figure due to what he learns of her more recent past.

That’s not to say that the book is a gritty, realistic examination of a grieving woman with multiple mental health diagnoses—it is most definitely not that. Next Therapist Please is, at its core, a light-hearted romance and a charming read, and one easily finished in one or two long, relaxing sessions.

Next Therapist Please is a rarity in that the main character has a variety of mental illnesses, and none of them are used to make her seem less than. Janie has suffered some tragic losses in her life, and this too, does not define her. Her mental health is explored in the book, but I think the line below (my favourite in the book) sums up the way she is treated the best:

“I’m really not the hot mess I was years ago. Just a little messy.”

Mental illness being a diagnosed reality in fiction at all is rare enough, and the healthy approach Janie has towards therapy and her own process of coping is (in my reading experience) unique. Janie’s way of seeing the world (by necessity effected by the mental illnesses she lives with) gets her into a variety of situations, some of them comical. Mental illness itself, however, never becomes the punchline. A difficult line to walk, but Laurie Finkelstein manages wonderfully.

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that over the course of the book, Janie comes to terms with her life, her loss, and herself; as a reader, you can’t help but feel happy for her. Next Therapist Please acknowledges that the world is not always fair, kind or easy—but with time (and maybe therapy) we can all live happy, fulfilling lives.

 

 

1No helpless romance-heroines here! Janie has overcome a lot, and is firmly in charge of her own life

2Sexual tension is not a good enough substitute, in my opinion; though there are multiple reasons romance is generally a sub-plot (rather than the driving force) in the books that I prefer to read

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