4 out of 4 stars
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“Sexuality is one of the ways that we become enlightened, actually, because it leads us to self-knowledge.” Alice Walker
Shadowing Sarah; A psychosexual novel by Irene Gillman is the tale of Sarah, a psychotherapist, who embarks on a journey of healing with her eight patients after their therapist dies.
Sarah is a shadow of the author herself, who is a seasoned psychotherapist and Professor of psychology, including human sexuality. Each one of Sarah’s patients has a different story, and as she works with them in both group and individual psychotherapy sessions, she comes to the realization that she has similar issues. Some of her patients achieve their goal of self-discovery, but others don’t.
Shadowing Sarah is narrated through Sarah’s eyes, whose internal monologues are a representation of her past sexual exploits and memories, which were often triggered by her patients’ disclosure of their sexual desires, activities, and fetishes.
This book stands out for its analytical, clear, straightforward, and candid writing style. Also intriguing is Sarah’s well-rounded, upfront, and transparent character. Her patients’ characters, inner conflicts, and struggles are portrayed in a manner that makes the reader root for every one of them and get immersed in their stories.
There is such wisdom and honesty in the prose that mandates the reader to stop and think, “You spoke earlier about your concerns for your grandchildren. I understand, but the only thing you can do is to show them love and caring, and to be there for them when they ask for help. Resist criticizing their mother, since your disapproval will set them against either you or her; the more stress in the family, the worse it will be for all of you, including your daughter-in-law.”
I liked that the author stated the primary purpose of the book, to demonstrate that therapists having issues, just like patients and readers.
Moreover, I enjoyed the dynamics of interaction between Sarah and her patients in the psychotherapy sessions. These sessions put the sexual struggles within the context of relationship stress, which adds depth and believability to the prose.
Furthermore, I appreciated the disclaimer in the foreword for the presence of explicit sexual sections. That said, I found some sexual fantasies, such as sodomy and sadism a little disturbing. Moreover, it felt to me that a considerable portion of the text was devoted to the details of Sarah’s sexual fantasies, a part of which at least, could have been passed upon without affecting the story.
This psychosexual novel is a very particular read that would appeal to a subset of readers who enjoy these genres. Putting judgment aside and embarking on reading this book with an open heart and mind, will render it such an enlightening experience. However, youngsters and people offended by explicit sexual content would better steer clear of this one.
On a side note, I was impressed by the pristine editing, which made of this read a smooth and enjoyable one. That, along with the direct and truthful tackling of thorny issues like abuse, rape, and private sexual fantasies, amongst others, gives me no choice but to rate Shadowing Sarah by Irene Gillman 4 out of 4 stars.
On a final note, reading this book reminded me of David Kinnaman’s words, “Sexuality should not be seen as dualistic all good or all bad, but as a good part of our created nature that is constantly in need of repair.”
Shadowing Sarah; A psychosexual novel
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