Friday, August 3, 2012

Review: The Hypnotist's Love Story

Summary: Ellen O'Farrell might be described as unusual -- she's a hypnotherapist, she's never met her father, she was raised by her mother and her mother's two best friends (it was like a lesbian commune, except they were all straight), and she can't seem to sustain a long-term relationship (okay, that's more normal than we want to admit.) 

So when Ellen meets Patrick, a man she likes -- who actually seems to like her back -- she can't help feeling optimistic. But after Patrick tells Ellen he has something he needs to talk to her about, she fears the worst. So when he tells her his old girlfriend is stalking him, she thinks, Is that all? Actually, that's kind of interesting. She's intrigued. She'd love to meet this person.

What she doesn't know is that she already has.

The Hypnotist's Love Story shows you that life is complicated, relationships aren't black-and-white, and we all do crazy things sometimes -- especially when love is involved. -- Amy Einhorn Books

Last year, I reviewed WHAT ALICE FORGOT by Liane Moriarty, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. When I initially picked it up, I assumed it would be mom-lit and a light read; however, I quickly discovered that this very entertaining story also had some depth. I just love it when that happens! So a few weeks ago, I picked up Ms. Moriarty's latest novel THE HYPNOTIST'S LOVE STORY with some slightly higher expectations.

THE HYPNOTIST'S LOVE STORY tells the story of Ellen O'Farrell, a hypnotherapist who's had a unique past to say the least. She never met her father, was brought up by her mom and her two best friends, and she hasn't had a successful long-term relationship despite devoting her career to helping others with their relationship issues (among other things!) When she meets Patrick, she is pretty sure that he's the one; however, Patrick informs her that his ex-girlfriend is a stalker .. and it's a big problem. Rather than being deterred, Ellen is fascinated about what makes this woman tick -- it must be her background in therapy, right? Much to Ellen's surprise, she discovers that she already knows this woman -- she's one of her patients! Ellen tries to balance her relationship with Patrick along with her relationship with his ex, and she discovers that things get complicated very quickly!

Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy THE HYPNOTIST'S LOVE STORY quite as much as I liked WHAT ALICE FORGOT. As I read this novel, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed because I liked so many things about WHAT ALICE FORGOT -- maybe my expectations were just too high. I'm pretty certain there's not anything inherently wrong with THE HYPNOTIST'S LOVE STORY (you can see the reviews on Amazon are all pretty high so I'm probably the odd one!) I just think I didn't like the story or the characters like I had hoped.

Where in WHAT ALICE FORGOT I was able to relate to certain aspects of the story, those feelings were absent as I read this novel. I didn't find myself really loving any of the characters, although I was entertained by some of their actions. In fact, there were times that I totally didn't understand Ellen's behavior and some of those times I found myself wanting to reach through the pages of the book and just shake her. I realize that I don't have to like the characters to appreciate the book, but in a novel like this one, I think it would have gone a long way towards helping me enjoy this story.

Having said all of that, there were some things that I did appreciate about THE HYPNOTIST'S LOVE STORY. First and foremost was the character development of the stalker. I don't know what this says about me, but I actually think she was a more interesting character than Ellen. While I've never been tempted to truly stalk anyone (I added "truly" because who didn't drive by guys' houses when they were in high school?), I actually understood some aspects of her character, especially as they pertained to her feelings about Patrick's child. Furthermore, despite her creepy behavior, I actually felt a large amount of compassion towards her. I have to assume that the author wanted the reader to feel this way -- to realize that people do crazy things for love.  So for that, I commend Ms. Moriarty because she definitely showed how seemingly normal people can even be driven to erratic behavior.

It's unfortunate that I didn't exactly love this book, but I do think many of its themes are universal and extremely pertinent to those of us involved in parent/child relationships as well as romantic ones. As a result, I do think THE HYPNOTIST'S LOVE STORY would work for book clubs. I wasn't able to find a discussion guide on-line, but some of the themes you might want to explore include parent/child relationships, blended families, obsession, compassion, second chances, love, forgiveness and redemption.

THE HYPNOTIST'S LOVE STORY didn't quite live up to my high expectations (which were probably unfair in the first place), but it was an entertaining read that many people will enjoy. While I didn't love the story or the characters, I did appreciate Ms. Moriarty's insights into life and love.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Serena said...

I love when there is more depth to a story than I makes the experience more enjoyable.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Yeah, I did a little stalking in high school myself. Hee hee. I completely TOTALLY loved What Alice Forgot. It was a solid five star read for me last made me sit back and re-examine my whole attitude and life. So I do want to read this...Jenners is sending me her copy! I think Moriarty is a great writer, so I know she will take me where I need to go. I'll just make sure my expectations are in line.

bermudaonion said...

It does sound like maybe your expectations were too high. I loved What Alice Forgot as well and will try to lower my expectations for this one.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

There are quite a few books I don't "love" but that I think are great for book clubs. This sounds like it would be like that!

Beth F said...

Oh well. We can't all love everything.