A psychiatrist falls into a dangerous double life and his family must step up to save him in this “first-rate novel” by the author of Tinderbox (Colum McCann).
Saul Dubinsky has been arrested for trying to steal drugs from a hospital pharmacy. No one is sure how this shy, sensitive, and dedicated doctor fell from grace. There was a patient who had attempted suicide—but the roots of this downward spiral may go back far further, and now his loved ones are trying to figure out what went wrong.
Saul’s emotionally remote wife, Rena, must confront the failures of their marriage—and in the process, face her shame over her own past. Saul’s father, who long ago gave up his own psychiatric practice, blames himself for his son’s breakdown, and finds himself tormented by memories of a troubled patient—and his complicity in his family’s long-simmering problems.
As Rena and Leonard each grapple with the impact of Saul’s arrest, they are drawn closer together—and a delicate transformation begins to occur in each of them—in a profound novel in which “none of the characters is flawless, even those we most love; they can be self-absorbed, lustful, weak, or afraid of intimacy, both spiritual and physical. Yet they are human in all their complexity, and they are beautifully rendered” (Library Journal).
“Gornick’s beautifully constructed novel is an expert balance of humor and pathos that will leave readers anxious for her next work.” —Booklist
“A wonderfully honest book, deeply felt, with characters carved from the true stuff of what we are. A first-rate novel, all the more surprising since it is Gornick’s debut.” —Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
Gornick's debut starts with a bang when psychiatrist Saul Dubinsky is arrested for stealing drugs from the hospital where he works to support his addiction. What follows, however, is an erratic, somewhat listless exploration of the family and marital dynamics that landed the doctor in dire straits. Most of the book focuses on Dubinsky's wife, Rena, and his brother, Leonard, who scramble to find a lawyer for Saul. Despite their efforts, Saul is sentenced to four years when the state adds a manslaughter charge after the pharmacist who was held up miscarries following the crime. Rena tries to come to grips with her guilt for introducing Saul to a friend who fostered his addiction. After several difficult prison visits, she finally ends up asking Saul for a divorce, setting up an implausible, even bizarre resolution to their relationship. The final chapters find Rena and Leonard off to Guatemala, trying to track down the kidnapped child of Saul's mentor a tangential subplot that adds nothing to the story. Gornick's writing is clean and luminous, and she offers some thoughtful, compelling observations about the family's troubles, but excess background detail frequently bogs down the plot, and Rena is a sketchy and unconvincing character, despite the effort put into her development. Gornick is a gifted prose stylist, but this is an uneven and unfocused first novel.Literary Guild selection; 5-city author tour.