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The Therapist

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Member Reviews

Another original addition to the Fairlight Moderns collection and an unusual and compelling tale of a couple unable to come to terms with the death of their son set against a backdrop of a country suffering a fatal and previously unknown bizarre epidemic. I’m not usually a great fan of the surreal, but this is such an absorbing story of grief, loss, and guilt that the dystopian elements seem to be absorbed effortlessly into the central narrative. A psychological study, with a bit of science fiction and horror thrown into the mix, which constantly surprises the reader, well-crafted and well-paced, this is a really good read. Its short length is an added strength – any longer and it would have become just too much, but as it is it’s a satisfying, skilful and intriguing novella.
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A hauntingly beautiful novella with a brilliant twist at the end. Will be keeping an eye out for more Nial Giacomelli books!
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Nothing I expected, and the ending was wonderful. I enjoyed this book very much. I especially like how it felt like a mystery, trying to understand the sickness, the therapist's role, the rift between the couple... and the ending tied it all together wonderfully. Thank you for the colt of this e-book- it was a pleasure reading
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'The Therapist' by Nial Giacomelli is a surreal experience. A man approaches a therapist to repair his failing marriage and get over the grief of losing a child. Parallelly an epidemic is spreading through the US, the victims disappearing slowly after a prolonged fever and hallucinations.
Giacomelli brings in gothic and dystopian storytelling together in this book. On one hand, it's about coping up with life after the loss of a child, but also feeling his presence throughout the house and a mysterious and unnamed therapist helping them see the truth. On the other hand, is a crisis that is your worst nightmare come true and amidst all this is a man trying to understand if disappearing is the salve to all the pain that now resides in his heart.
The prose is haunting and terrifying. Simone, our protagonist, and the narrator are unreliable until the very end. The story might feel predictable but the author has multiple tricks up his sleeve.
Giacomelli's allegorical writing brings to life the feeling of grief. Simone's dreams and his outlook towards life are shaped by this grief.
For me, The Therapist is nothing short of a masterpiece. I went into this book blind and I am glad I did. It was a novel experience, trusting the author even when everything felt bizarre. The vivid and intense prose makes the experience a thousandfold better.
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Another exploration of grief and the process people go through to get beyond it.  I have read so many novels with this central theme that I wondered if there was anything new to be written about it.  Yet it seems there is.  The difference this author brings to it is the main character - not a very likeable man at first, especially when compared with his poor wife, but I found myself sympathising with him by the end and that was no mean feat.  For much of the story I found the extended metaphor of the ‘disappearance epidemic’ intruded on the story of the couple’s private dilemma but towards the end the personal comes to the forefront again and the two strands come together in a poignant way.

‘And perhaps worst of all, how I feel myself losing him now, the grip of my memory loosening each day.  I see his face disintegrating in my mind.  I forget the colour of his eyes, the sound of his laughter.  I struggle to remember the shape of his face, or the smell of his hair.  And I wonder when, not if, the day will come when I forget his likeness completely.  When his body breaks down and he is reduced to simply a vague notion.  I sit in the dark of our bedroom and wonder if maybe it is best to forget.’

‘I sit perfectly still and try to visualise the internal mechanics of my own body.  To disassemble my molecular structure.  To reduce my body to its purest form.  To release a lifetime of guilt and regret.  Until I am left with only the goodness in me.
But I find the person who remains unrecognisable.  We would be strangers in the street.
I would pass him and he would pass me, and we would share not a single glance.’

Heartbreaking.  Superbly well written and a welcome addition to my collection of Fairlight Moderns novellas - a brilliant series, I can’t recommend them (and this one in particular) highly enough.
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The Therapist by Niall Giacomelli 

I read this novella by Niall Giacomelli over a period of a couple of days. It’s a difficult one to categorise, being a mix of fantasy, science fiction & dystopia - with a dash of horror thrown in. None of which are my usual genres to be honest ! I started off really liking it, then wasn’t too sure for a while, but finished up really liking it again. It’s beautifully written that’s for sure. I was interested to read afterwards that the author grew up in England as, although it’s very much an American (based) novel, some of the expressions used by the main character struck me as being very English. (‘draw a bath’ for example) This is a book about grief. But it’s also about a fatal and terrifying disease that’s spreading across America and the narrator of the book is watching the horror of this on TV while simultaneously trying to come to terms with the horror of losing his 5 year old son. Unusual  and thought provoking. I want to give it 3.5* bit as there is no option I’ll stick with 3* 

Thanks  to Netgalley and to Fairlight books for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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Thank you to Fairlight Books and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review this.

This is a beautiful and moving story of the natural revolutions of grief and loss, while inhabiting a dystopian world wherein a devastating disease has become epidemic.

The narrator and his wife, Simone, are seeing a therapist to talk through the death of their young son. It’s heartbreaking stuff, for sure. But what this novella does brilliantly is keep the commonplace in the foreground, and in the background add in this strange illness that’s sweeping the globe; one in which people start to fade away.

The beginning felt rushed, and moved at an uncomfortable pace. I wished it had slowed down, just a bit, for me to feel the emotions it was looking to elicit. I think this has to do with the narrative being in the first person present— a tense I’m not particularly fond of, as it too often comes off as a listing of thoughts and actions: “I did this, and she said that.” “We sit down, and I watch them.”
It’s not my favorite.
I wasn’t a fan of the narrator, either. He was the typical male— angry, moody, lecherous. In the face of such a terrible loss, I can see these being understandable, but he remained a bit of an asshole (and he knew it). I pitied him at the end, but still...

The writing is done very well— the imagery is not too flowery, and it’s frequently somber and somewhat frightening. The whole novella sort of feels like wading chest deep in water; you can almost feel the weight of the grief radiating on the page , as well as the all-too-inevitable sickness sweeping the background. In the end: a good read.
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I started reading The Therapist by Nial Giacomelli yesterday morning and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.
The book slowly drew me in with its fascinating eccentricities which it owes to the layered characters and the plot.
We have a couple with a child who is no more and who are unable to come to terms with the harsh reality of his unfortunate and accidental death. They decide to seek help of a therapist. Grief tugs at their hearts and distorts their view of reality so much that it is difficult to trust the narrator (the man). With a heavy use of imagery, the narrator draws parallels between his mental state and the world around him which gives rise to an atmospheric tale.
I am still reeling under the effect this book had on me. With its underlying theme of mental health and the havoc grief can wreak on a person, if not processed properly, is harrowingly but sensitively portrayed.
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As an avid reader (or rather consumer) of plague fiction, it takes a lot now to amaze me with fresh ideas and writing. And this novella did just that! Nowadays I feel it is very difficult to write any sort of subscription to the gothic or dystopian fiction without reading as something borrowed or repeating already worn out ideas, and story, especially when grappling with themes such as guilt, grief, and loss. I know not how Giacomelli did it but he did. Hauntingly engrossing
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Oh my God, this book, this amazing piece of writing completely blew my mind. Once I started to read I couldn’t set my Kindle aside. I had to find out if the couple would find the way back to each other, the truth about how they drifted apart in the first place and where the strange epidemic would read. This book is incredibly sad and haunting at times. The couple clearly still love each other but tragedy has driven a massive wedge between them. I rooted for them from the first page. I loved the fact the phrase I dreamt we were at sea, she says is repeated throughout the book, giving the whole thing a surreal and dreamlike feeling. This is the best book I’ve read so far from Fairlight Moderns.
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This is a beautifully written and haunting story. It's about grief and loss and is poignant and moving. I've tried to write this review as spoiler free as possible because that's the best way to read this story.. 

It's about a couple struggling to come to terms with the loss of their son against the backdrop of a disease that starts in Oregon and quickly becomes an epidemic where people become very ill and disappear. 

The story weaves been these two themes, outlining a growing tension increasing in despair to a post-apocalypse feel.

The story is told from the perspective of the husband, recounting the loss, attending therapy sessions and watching the epidemic on the news until it arrives in their neighbourhood. 

There are subtle clues along the way to a big twist in the plot, I didn't see it coming. It gets surreal at times, a merging of dreams and waking life raises questions about the reality of the situation and starts you questioning the reliability of the reporter's account. 

I'd highly recommend reading this book, it's not an easy read given the subject matter but the quality of the writing style, empathy and character development results in superbly emotional story.
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"Melancholia, as you call it, germinates in the mind, but blossoms in the body."
The Therapist by Nial Giacomelli is a slim novel with weighty aspirations. It's wholly atmospheric and a little strange.

I didn't enjoy this book much, and most of that's on me. It covers depressing subject matter, the kind of emotional drama that just isn't my jam. It's about grief, a couple dealing with grief, and I think I can just leave it at that so as not to spoil anything for you. I have yet to read a book that takes on grieving as a theme in a way that resonates meaningfully with me.
We sit beneath a painting of the sea and talk about the weight of absence. How after the accident we had both begun to see the body of our own grief. We had watched as it was born, fusing bone and knitting skin. How over the course of several weeks it had come together in the shape not of a man, but of a boy. And how gradually it had taken residence in the house, bringing with it a furious anger.
I didn't like the narrator. He comes across as a selfish asshole husband. Now, this is kind of the point, as it's very much tied up in the blame that is thrown around the guilt everyone denies or wallows in. But the aha moment came too late for me to care — I deeply loathed the asshole for being in his marriage in the way that he was and didn't give a shit about his redemption. I put this one on the author — maybe it's a question of the timing of certain revelations of the narrator's character. Maybe this is a woman's reading of his character, but I disliked him too much, too early. That is, I can appreciate what the author was trying to do with this character, but it didn't work for me.
She suffered stress headaches, much like she had as a teenager, migraines that would blossom like cactus flowers in the depths of her eye sockets. She was struck by a terrible malaise that kept her bedridden. And though I knew only stories of her youth, I was forced to watch helplessly as the wounds of her depression reopened across the geography of her body.
While grief takes up residence in their bodies, a plague is ravaging America. People are becoming transparent, until they disappear. They become one with the dead before them. Our couple lives in terror of the disease encroaching on their own remote territory. I would've preferred to focus on that epic apocalypse, or on the neighbours (the kind of Joneses you want to keep up with, despite them having their own deep troubles) rather than the intimate one. (But there's a point in here too about grief and how intensely private it is; it refuses sometimes to let the world in, it can't be fixed from the outside.)
By day we explore the geography of the continent and at night we explore the geography of each other. Two shapes that come together as one.
The metaphor was crafted to death. The words "body" and "bodies" occur more than 100 times in this 125-page story. Body-related imagery combined with geographical references abounds.
An infographic appears showing landmass consumed by an acreage of growing red dots. It looks like an X-ray, an organ riddled with tumours.
Taken individually, many of these sentences are stunning, but the whole of them felt overwritten and tiresome.
They walk like a chain gang into a makeshift compound, a shanty town of relief tents that look like white pustules against the landscape.
Shame on me, but life et cetera, and I skimmed through the final pages. Something about the incorporeality of love and what love can then embody. The resolution is not entirely clear to me, nor do I understand the nature of the eponymous therapist.
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Great read. The author wrote a story that was interesting and moved at a pace that kept me engaged. The characters were easy to invest in.
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A surreal novella by debut author Nial Giacomelli, The Therapist is a story of grief and loss, how it is processed, and how it affects us. The novella is a new addition to Fairlight Books Fairlight Moderns series, featuring a beautiful cover and art by Sam Kalda, who has won and been nominated for awards such as The Society of Illustrators Gold Medal, the World Illustration Awards, and Young Illustrator Awards. Two guides, one for reading groups and one for writing groups, can be found for The Therapist as a part of the Fairlight Moderns series.

A very unreliable narrator gives a first person narrator of his time after a great tragedy. This, at first, is an unnamed event which is quickly realized as the death of his child. Specific details of the event as well as names are hidden or undisclosed when the story first opens. The past is a murky place filled with grief, hollowness, bitterness, and regret. Yet, it is illuminated in smaller bits and pieces as our unnamed narrator continues to recount the tale. 

The majority of the story focuses on the narrator, his wife, and the therapist he is seeing. This is punctuated by a greater, terrifying happenings on the news. In Oregon people are coming down with some kind of strange disease where, following illness, the diseased simply disappear. A pandemic quick develops, playing out as newsreels behind the narrator’s ongoing story. Not much concrete development is given to this secondary plot, leaving it out of the realms of science fiction or fantasy and remaining very firmly in the delightful and often murky waters of surrealist and speculative fiction.

The narrator is of an incredibly unreliable nature. It is through his eyes we see the world, his past, and his current life. It is up to the reader to pick apart the messy threads of the tapestry of words woven, and find the truth lying within. At times the narrator is seemingly open, seeing and acknowledging his flaws and his part in past and current events. At other times he is seemingly blind to what readers might find obviously, stating his words and actions in a matter of fact way, but not quite making a greater connection to himself and the current state of his world. 

Beautiful prose makes The Therapist a delight to read. Despite how incredibly unreliable the narrator is, certain lines hold such power in their emotion, truth, and expert crafting of prose. 

The Therapist is a well-crafted novella that explores grief, tragedy, depression, and learning to live with the past. Nial Giacomelli is a debut author with great command of prose and understanding of the human condition, and is certainly a force to watch in the future.
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What is wonderful about the novella format is that it has a distinct character of its own. If the focus of a short story is on an impression, an idea or a sketch and a novel is all about elaborating a plot, a novella enjoys the benefits of both, having the precision of a short story, but being able to dwell on a particular sentiment and explore it more deeply than any of the other ways of writing. Often the sentiment explored is a difficult, complex one and in a story called The Therapist, you can imagine that's the case here.

In fact, Nial Giacomelli's beautiful debut novella uses both the deep exploration of a sentiment or impression as well as plot to make The Therapist also a form of therapy; whether that's for the protagonist, the writer or for the reader that's up to the individual, but the possibilities are all there. The subject, as you might expect from someone seeing a therapist, is indeed a difficult one dealing with the death of a child, coming to terms with loss, grief, bereavement. But evidently, if it's dealt with sensitively, it can be very rewarding, from a literary as well as a personal viewpoint.

Because it's such a complex subject, one that is difficult to nail down in words, Giacomelli finds several interesting and original angles to approach the subject. The narrator is visiting a therapist with his wife Simone, the two of them trying to come to terms with the death of their son Phineas in an accident by the sea. The sea and the sound of running water become a recurring image in the story, one that clearly suggests something that has had a major impact on both of them. In fact, it seems worse for Simone, who appears to be sinking into a deep depression and unable to move on.

But there is also an epidemic crisis being reported on the news that appears to also connect to the mood. A strange illness has broken out in Oregon, but is rapidly sweeping across the country, causing auditory and visual hallucinations, weakening victims to the point where they start to vanish. Whether this is real is difficult to determine, but it definitely feeds into the expression of grief that the narrator is experiencing or his failure to come to terms with his grief and the deterioration that is clearly affecting his wife.

That's just one fascinating image that the Nial Giacomelli uses in The Therapist, one that puts grief and bereavement down in physical terms, considering the organic nature of humanity, to how the memories that define us and how we relate to people are also subject to actual physical degradation and can also vanish. Dreams, guilt, wish fulfilment, imagining what could have been, trying to blot out what has really occurred are all part of the complex sentiments that the narrator grapples with, that we all grapple with to one extent or another. Giacomelli captures that brilliantly in what is evidently a book heavy on mood and troubling imagery, but which works its way through to an incredibly moving resolution.
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I don’t say this easily - this is, without doubt, one of my favourite books so far this year. It took me about two hours to read (read, devour, demolish) and it was flipping amazing.

It would be too easy to ruin this book, so I’ll keep this short. It’s a story of grief, for most of us, of the unimaginable variety. But it’s also about what makes us human; how we crave solitude yet need the company of others, how our minds work and work against us, and how we face our own mortalities and that of those around us.

Giacomelli is a phenomenal author, I have nothing but praise for his development of this story. He keeps the reader wanting more with every word. I didn’t feel like I was watching the protagonist - I was the protagonist.

Moving, horrifying, our worst fears brought to life - The Therapist is a work of art.
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“I sit perfectly still and try to visualize the internal mechanics of my own body. To disassemble my molecular structure. To reduce my body to its purest form. To release a lifetime of guilt and regret. Until I am left with only the goodness in me.

But I find the person who remains unrecognizable.”

The Therapist by Nial Giacomelli was more than a bit of a let-down. I’d been hoping for a thoughtful character-driven plague survival story, but unfortunately mostly ended up with a middle-aged white man whining about how his wife was depressed and about how he thinks the (somewhat mysterious) therapist they’re visiting isn’t worth the money. 

The narrator and his wife, Simone, recently lost their son in an accident at the beach. It’s very tragic, and I really do feel for them. Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel that the unnamed narrator exemplifies more than a few stereotypical toxic white-guy traits. While he does at least take a moment to acknowledge his privilege in one paragraph, this hardly absolves him from responsibility to do better. 

“I remember thinking about how fortunate I had been to have been born a man. To be able to live as the breadwinner not by discussion or election, but by assumption. I knew that I would never have been able to bear staying home in the way that she had. And though I had always insisted that Simone was free to decide whether she returned to work or not, I would have been lying if I’d said that her decision hadn’t benefited me greatly. That by sheer grace of my gender I had avoided that messy discussion, that sad admittance that being a father alone would never have been enough to satisfy me completely.”

Shockingly, it also wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy his wife, either. In other portions, he actively recognizes that his wife is unhappy and would like to return to work – but feels like she can’t. In such a situation, the right thing to do as a partner who cares about the emotional and mental wellbeing of your spouse is not to tell her “Oh, well you always have the OPTION, honey!”, which causes feelings of guilt for her between both A) knowing how much you benefit from it and B) the pressure women have to be the “perfect” mothers who stay at home with their children. The right thing is to encourage her to return to work for her own health and recognize that placing the baby into daycare isn’t a bad thing. Of course, he does neither of these things. Instead, he pats himself on the back for giving her the so-called freedom to “choose” as if she truly has a free choice. 

“Do you want to go back to work?” I asked. 

She was silent for a long time. We both sat and watched the question turn stale in the air between us. I realised then that the answer was yes. That she missed work terribly, but was too ashamed to admit it. Financially we could survive on my salary, which meant, at least in her mind, that a return to work would equate to failure.”

He has some odd and rather cringe-worthy scenes wherein he fantasizes about cheating on his wife with a myriad of different women. The metaphor here was meant to symbolize his desire for intimacy, which he feels is lacking with his wife as she battles depression. When he and his wife visit the neighbor family, he first feels jealous as the husband helps the narrator’s wife remove her coat (oh no he touched her shoulders!!!!). He then proceeds to internally daydream about his wife sleeping with the neighbor wife. This whole sequence felt extremely gratuitous. Near the middle, he considers running away to the coast away from his wife, where he’ll fuck “loose women” – with a description of said sex boiling down to him quite frankly raping them. Naturally, this is not portrayed as rape. Towards the end, he fantasizes about a crowd of women who all want to have sex with him swarming him. 

“I spend my days betting on horses and when either my luck runs out or the sun runs off I go in search of loose women. I fuck them behind bars and on the hoods of cars. I take them from behind, their hair wrapped tightly in my clenched fist. And when they gasp and then beg for me to slow down I thunder on, as if I am trying to rip them apart. I stop only when, at last, I am sated. 

But the fantasy falls apart almost as quickly as it materializes. The logistics are laughable. How would I rent a convertible without providing some form of identification? Who were these loose women, and where was this disposable income coming from?”

Please take a second to note that he doesn’t mention the logistics of raping women who beg him to stop, only wondering where he might find them. 

The only science fiction element of this book is… not particularly scifi, to be frank. The backdrop of the story involves a mysterious plague sweeping the nation which causes people to first sicken and then disappear into the ether. It’s meant to mirror the way the narrator feels as though he’s losing his connection to the world as well as the way those we love can simply gradually dissolve away from our lives. It was OK, I guess, but not particularly interesting beyond the symbolism. It didn’t really add to the plot. It did allow for the narrator to have a deep conversation with a dying grandmother, though, which further cemented in my mind the way he desires women to take care of him and mother even even with their last breath, however!

One of his wife’s conditions for staying together after the death of their son was to visit a therapist together, and quite frankly, if any of this guy’s issues with women and his own worldview had been addressed by the therapy, this might have been a pretty good little novella about the issues facing men in our society and how they might redeem themselves to become better people. Unfortunately, the therapist was primarily just a symbolic figure and the narrator spends a good amount of time complaining about her, believing her to be overpaid because she has a nice house and drinks loose leaf tea (I kid you not). 

Quite frankly, my biggest takeaways from this book were: wow, boy howdy does this guy need to realize that 1) women don’t exist to help you process your emotions 2) women don’t exist to mother you 3) women have a right to their own lives, which you should encourage, outside of raising your spawn 4) sex is not the only form of intimacy and 5) sorry your kid died but that doesn’t mean you get to be an asshole to your wife who you all but forced to be the primary caregiver by dint of not supporting her as a person. 

2 stars because at least the writing style wasn’t terrible. 


Just to add insult to injury, the end of the book used that tired old cliche “it was all a dream!” ending. Turns out his wife committed suicide and he’s been hallucinating her this whole time? Or such is implied. There’s literally zero payoff for any of the bullshit I sat through for the first 90% of the novella. Ah, well, can’t win ’em all.
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The Therapist is a beautifully written novella that explores the nature of grief. When the story begins, we learn that the two main characters have suffered a horrible loss. Around the same time, people start coming down with a horrifying illness that causes them to literally fade away to nothingness. 

Expect the unexpected from the unreliable narrator. He doesn’t want to remember the truth, so he tells himself - and the reader - a lie that’s only slightly more comforting than his reality. 

The author cleverly used symbolism to drop hints about the truth. Although I was able to guess the big reveal, I certainly didn’t have all the details correct. It’s always a true pleasure to read a book that manages to hide a few of its surprises. And when a book is also as heartbreaking and beautiful as this one, it almost demands a second reading. 

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an ARC. This review contains my honest, unbiased opinion.
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The Therapist is the second of the upcoming Fairlight Moderns novella series which I managed to get my mitts on, and the first to blow my tiny mind.

A strange illness blooms on the West coast of America, one which causes rapid physical deterioration in its victims. Their skin reddens and their eyes bulge outwards, as if the very flesh is being siphoned from them. Then, at last, they begin to disappear altogether, their frantically beating hearts the last to fade into nonentity. The disease is unexplained, unprecedented, and unstoppable. Watching the chaos via news bulletins is our unnamed narrator and his wife, Simone, who are too enveloped by grief for their drowned son to truly acknowledge the implications which these vanishings have on wider society. Their deeply personal tragedy is so great that it takes precedence over the apparent end of the word, which is relegated to a vaguely threatening hum in the background.

An undertone of fear and unease trembles beneath the narrator’s prose, making for a reading experience rife with suspicion. The titular therapist carries the hallmarks of a Gothic villain – in her first appearance she stands ominously at a lit window in a scene reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Psycho. As the novella progresses, she increasingly adopts the ghostly persona of the reaper, offering explanations for the vanishings as ascension rather than death, appearing before our narrator in surreal dreams and at the bedside of a dying vanisher who was shot before she could ascend. Our narrator is also quickly established as being unreliable and to be repressing a great deal of vital information, and Simone’s crippling grief leaves her to drift through the house like a shade devoid of any cognizance, leaving no one for the reader to depend on. The final addition to this undertone of threat is the constant presence of the epidemic which sweeps increasingly closer to our main characters who seem entirely too keen to ignore its approach. Both the narrator and Simone appear to exhibit symptoms, and much time is spent expectantly anticipating the announcement that one, or both, of them are succumbing to it.

Even with the mistrustful eye with which I regarded this narrative, the twist that comes at the very end stunned me. It was perfectly executed, triggering a hand-over-mouth, wide-eyed silence. All of those niggling questions and scenarios which had once floated errantly now slot into place. It’s the kind of gotcha! which makes you want to read the whole book again in order to grasp at whatever hints must have eluded you in your ignorance.

This is a beautiful little work with an irresistible magnetism that meant I swallowed it up in a single sitting. It is an aching look at familial grief and how it can induce not only sadness, but anger, frustration, and isolation in those affected by it. Giacomelli’s portrayal of the little understood paternal postnatal depression is masterful, with the narrator concealing it until the very end – only revealing it alongside his most deeply repressed trauma. I must admit that it prompted me to conduct further research into a subject I hadn’t even considered, and any work that incites that kind of response in its readers is deserving of respect, especially when it presents its concepts so excellently. If you only have enough leeway to pick up one of the Fairlight Moderns this month, make it this one.


★★★★★ | 5/5
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‘’It’s as if someone is cutting into me while I sleep and gradually stitching weights into the muscles and tendons of my body. And though it’s not debilitating I find it harder each day to fight to the surface.’’

A married couple is trying to cope with the tragic loss of their onlychild while a strange illness is sweeping over the USA. Starting from Oregon, it spreads all through Washington, Nevada, Idaho and soon the entire country becomes a victim caught on deadly claws. Sudden fever hallucinations. The victims begin to know things that are impossible for them to know. And then, they disappear…

Giacomelli creates a story that works on both levels. First, it is the chronicle of the most terrifying experience a human being can go through, the loss of a child and the struggle to redefine yourself as a wife and a husband after the nightmare. Secondly, it is a tale of another kind of Dystopia, where people aren’t threatened by a totalitarian regime but by an even more dangerous enemy that no one can defeat.

The writing is excellent, the prose is haunting and in certain parts mesmerizing and whimsical in a dark way. The descriptions of the culmination of the illness are terrifying. There are certain hints as to the man’s sanity and lead that may involve hauntings, provoked by the sound of running water. When the novel ends, this feature acquires a whole new meaning. The dialogue is natural and flowing but the strength of the book lies in the descriptive passages that are truly beautiful. However, there were a few issues that prevented this from being perfect, in my opinion.

The concept of a pandemic has been done to perfection in Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and it acquires an interesting twist in The Therapist. A disease that causes you to disappear, literally disappear, in plain sight is unique as far as I know and the process is powerfully depicted. However, it became a bit too Sci-Fi veering on Horror gore for my tastes. It seemed over-the-top to me. Certain musings about love and relationships felt forced, pseudo-philosophical and out of place. The two characters, while very humane, are neither memorable nor very interesting.

The ending comes out of nowhere. Up until that point, I was convinced that Simone was a deeply unsympathetic character, almost intentionally so. The last chapters, however, turned the entire book upside down. Still (---spoiler alert link on Goodreads--- it was too The Sixth Sense for me and this has been done to death in Literature and films.) So, it didn’t stay with me and the surprise factor didn’t last long.

Overall, a powerful and original novel, an interesting study on loss and grief. In that sense, I’d say that it is a work that deserves to be talked about. Speaking strictly for me, it was the choice of certain Sci-Fi/Horror elements that prevented me from fully loving this one so 4 stars it will be. I strongly recommend it, though. It will be difficult for a reader not to fully emerge in the sadness and the unknown that define the setting of the story and Giacomelli is definitely a writer that deserves our attention.

Many thanks to Fairlight Books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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