In Liane Moriarty’s fourth book, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, an Australian hypnotherapist named Ellen meets a bland and grumpy man named Patrick, who turns out to have a son, a dead ex wife, and a stalker – his ex, Saskia, who helped him raise his son for years after his wife’s death. Ellen is intrigued to the point of slightly obsessed with the stalker, and wrestles with an assortment of personal dilemmas: people not taking her career seriously, her mother’s unconventional choice to have her alone without ever telling her father she existed, how to step into the stepmother role, how to exist alongside the memory of Patrick’s dead wife.
This wasn’t a bad book, but it was disappointing. I’ve read almost all of Moriarty’s other books, and they follow the same pattern: female friendships are important and well developed, there are unexpected plot twists, there’s a shocking but plausible climax, and I cannot put them down. Her books are the kind where one more chapter turns into half the book and I pretty much have to put my real life on hold until I finish it. I had the opposite problem with this book – I had to make myself read a chapter or so a day, and when I had some downtime I’d find myself playing Candy Crush instead. I couldn’t pick it up.
One of the biggest obstacles to becoming invested was that although the characters were decently developed and not loathsome, there wasn’t really anyone I related to. I’m not sure if I was supposed to but I was surprisingly sympathetic to the stalker, who really had been treated appallingly by Patrick.
I finally got into it more than 2/3 of the way into the book, when it started to look like a few loose ends were working toward something satisfying. After circling each other for the whole book, would Ellen and Saskia get to meet and really ask/tell each other everything they wanted to? Was Saskia going to do something really crazy? Were we going to find out why Patrick dumped Saskia out of the damn blue immediately after her mom died and refused to let her stay involved in his son’s life, even though she’d been nearly his sole caregiver for years? I guess technically all of those things happened, but I was on the last page before I realized that that one thing was supposed to be the climax. If this were a memoir, I’d say that Ellen seems nice but hasn’t really had an interesting enough life to warrant a book.