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Book Review

Book Reviews

5/1/2019

‘The Calculating Stars’

By Mary Robinette Kowal
Tor Books
July 8, 2018
$18.99
432 pp

There is a small handful of writers who don’t just craft a good story, or comment smartly on modern life, or create fascinating characters you’d want to have a beer with. Instead, they do all three while entertaining even the most experienced reader.

Mary Robinette Kowal is one such author. Her much-lauded, Hugo-nominated new book, “The Calculating Stars,” is perhaps her best work yet, describing a fascinating alternate view of the space race while simultaneously commenting on our current times in both oblique and forthright terms. The first book in what promises to be a fantastic series, Kowal has created a new fictional idol for me in Elma York — a hard-headed, dedicated, brilliant pilot who fights for the chance to save humanity, even if it isn’t very ladylike.

By Lori Gottlieb
Houghton Mifflin
April 2, 2019
$28
432 pp

Filled with hardcore science, a beautiful romance, adventure and hope, this book is a must for fans of “Hidden Figures,” alternate histories, or just really good storytelling. — Reviewed by Julie Goodrich

‘Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, & Our Lives Revealed’

By Lori Gottlieb
Houghton Mifflin
April 2, 2019
$28
432 pp

Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist in Los Angeles whose late-night writing sessions ultimately bring us her new book introducing us to a unique view of therapy sessions from both sides of the couch. “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” allows Gottllieb to “use (her) own experiences to help others find meaning in their lives, too.” Enamored by the value and impact of people’s stories, Gottlieb changes careers a bit before opening her own therapy practice, wanting to create a space where she could listen to “stories that are worth waiting for, the ones that define our lives.”

With great empathy, perception and humor, Gottlieb chronicles the stories of patients as they enter her office and break open. We get an insider’s view of the process of therapy as their sessions progress, and we see their transformations as she skillfully works with them. Julie, in her early 30s, is a newlywed with a terminal cancer diagnosis, forcing her to do “therapy on steroids.” John is a young, flippant Hollywood producer harboring a secret of devastating loss and grief. Rita, divorced, estranged from her children and depressed, will end her life if things don’t improve by her impending 70th birthday.

Derailed by an unexpected breakup, Gottlieb herself enters a therapist’s office, exposing herself and her emotional and physical issues though her sessions with Wendell. He helps her “rejoin the human race,” and she develops a reverence for and a gratefulness to Wendell, even applying his skills and lessons into her own practice. Her clients, too, help her face her own issues as she takes her “own medicine.”

Gottlieb deftly illustrates the power of the human encounter within an hour devoted to a therapy session, of learning to pay attention to and communicate with ourselves, revealing our humanity and the power to heal. — Review by Fay Jones

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