Book Review: The Hypnotist’s Love Story

Hypnotherapist Ellen O’Farrell is enjoying her fourth date with Patrick Scott, a self-employed suburban surveyor. When he says, “There’s something I need to tell you,” Ellen immediately tenses and expects the worst. To her surprise, she learns that Patrick has a female stalker, Saskia. More intrigued than frightened, Ellen could barely “keep the undercurrent of joy out of her voice” as she commiserated with Patrick. Ellen wants to get into the woman’s mind and discover what motivates her behaviour. What Ellen doesn’t know is that she has already met her. Saskia has been masquerading as one of Ellen’s clients.

While I still shudder at any mention of that infamous movie, Fatal Attraction, I did not feel the same level of fear as I read The Hypnotist’s Love Story. In Saskia, Moriarty has succeeded in creating a compelling character who tugs at our heart strings. I was surprised to find myself sympathizing with the stalker and hoping that she would turn her life around.  Moriarty also adds grey nuances to Ellen’s character.  The moral and compassionate practitioner is often tempted to act unethically and use hypnosis to uncover Patrick’s true feelings.

I felt ambivalent toward Patrick and wondered why he wasn’t taking out a restraining order. Did he feel guilty about cutting Saskia off only a month after her mother’s death? And why do Patrick’s mother and son rush to Saskia’s defense whenever Patrick criticizes her?

I enjoyed the larger cast of characters which includes Ellen’s feisty mother, Ann, and the two godmothers who raised her in what Ellen describes as “a lesbian commune, except they were all straight.”

A delightful summer read.