Book Review: The Hypnotist's Love Story

Image: Goodreads

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Liane Moriarty is known for soap opera-esque stories that while dramatic, don't quite follow the norms of their respected genres: The Husband's Secret was a quasi-thriller that isn't traditionally thrilling, and The Hypnotist's Love Story is a quasi-romance that isn't traditionally romantic.

This novel stars Ellen O'Farrell, a hypnotherapist in a bizarre predicament. Her new boyfriend Patrick is having trouble committing—not because he doesn't believe in the validity of her unique profession, but because of his stalker ex-girlfriend Saskia.

Ever the optimist, Ellen finds this situation more intriguing than insane. Saskia follows them around town, shows up to Patrick's son's games, and even breaks into Ellen's house and bakes her cookies. So why does the reader also feel sorry for her?

Moriarty is great about planting seeds of doubt, and this time it's in Patrick. Why does he get so angry over Saskia and yet refuses to call the police? Why is he dating Ellen when it's so obvious that he's not over his late wife? And if he's such a perfect boyfriend, then why can't seem to help with the simplest chores?

I feel that this novel could have been fantastic if it followed conventions a bit more closely. I expected some lighthearted chick-lit, but Saskia's disturbing behavior opens an unexpected dialogue about grief, mental illness and boundaries. Ellen's relationship with Patrick moves so quickly that it's easy to empathize with Saskia's inability to move on.

However, every time you think the book is going to delve deeper, one obstacle gets pushed aside and another is introduced. Ellen must also deal with the reemergence of her estranged father and the wrath of a dissatisfied client, but these conflicts are too easily resolved in the end.

Not quite a romance novel, not yet a crime drama—The Hypnotist's Love Story suffers an unfortunate identity crisis and doesn't live up to its potential. And at a whopping 480 pages, that's a long haul in literary purgatory.

This novel was different and fun but not the home run that I was looking for. That said, Moriarty is a great author, and I'll continue reading her work because she's more than capable of hitting those homers.

Book Review: The Husband's Secret

Rating: 4 out of 5

On Thursday evening, my book club will discuss The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty. This bestselling 2013 novel intrigued us due to its promise of scandal, and it certainly delivered--just not in the way I expected.

Set in Australia (which is interesting in itself, since it was the first time I read about Easter during autumn), the story features three women, each dealing with serious family drama.

Cecilia discovers a letter from her husband meant to be read by her after his death--except he's very much alive. Tess is also faced with spousal conflict after learning that her husband is having an affair with her cousin. Lastly, Rachel is still grieving the loss of her teenage daughter decades after her unexplained murder.

I thought that The Husband's Secret would be about a big reveal, but surprisingly, it's not difficult to connect the dots of how these families are intertwined. That said, it's still entertaining to watch the plot progress. The characters are not likable at all times, but they're realistic and multi-dimensional. Moriarty does an apt job putting the reader in their shoes; even the tough subject of homicide is transformed from something that you think you'd never experience to just another dirty little secret of suburbia.

Naturally, I can't give away too many details since I don't want to spoil the book, but I will say that if you're a scaredy cat like me, you don't have to worry. Moriarty is no Gillian Flynn writing super suspenseful thrillers; instead, her strength is demonstrating how mundane the controversy can be. Events unfold, and life goes on. You can torture yourself with what could have or should have happened, or you can embrace the butterfly effect of chaos.

My favorite part about having a book club is reading stories outside of my comfort zone. The Husband's Secret is not a total 180 from my typical picks, but it was a nice change from the novels I normally add to my to-read list. I'm looking forward to hearing what the other members thought of this book!