I recently finished The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty and felt pulled in two different directions with my reaction to this book. This author was able to paint a visual portrayal of a delicate issue where the reader has sympathy for the antagonist of the book; where without this type of representation; this character would have been hated. Being able to achieve this is a true gift of any author and Liane Moriarty pulls it off effortlessly.
Within this book, Ellen is a hypnotherapist in Sydney whose life takes a drastic turn when she meets Patrick. Ellen had been in three long relationships that never really materialized into what she had imagined for her optimal long-term relationship. At the age of thirty-five, she finally takes the plunge—desperate for a family, she turns to Internet dating. After a couple dates with Patrick, a single dad whose first wife died tragically, she can see a deeper commitment with him. That is when he reveals that an ex-girlfriend is stalking him. In Ellen’s mind, this makes Patrick more desirable—if an ex-girlfriend wants him this desperately; then he really must be a catch.
I am not condoning stalking at all and within this relationship, it is apparent Patrick’s ex-girlfriend; Saskia is in need of severe therapy. Stalking is a serious problem and I sympathize with any victims of this sort of crime. However, this is where the author paints a story that shows another side—one of the stalker. Within the book, there is a sympathy that runs deep for Saskia. Her story is revealed in a first person point of view and the reader gets a sense to why a person could turn to this lifestyle. Later on when Patrick reveals more information to Ellen about Saskia, she realizes Saskia is actually a patient of hers under an obvious pseudonym.
Normally, I give very few spoilers in my reviews but I feel I need to address some of the reasons I was able to sympathize with the stalker in Saskia. First off, after Patrick’s first wife passes away, he brings Saskia into his life and she bonds immediately with the infant son of Patrick and his late wife. She took over all parenting duties for the young boy and Patrick allowed this with out a fight. Then he decides just a month after Saskia loses her mother (and her only family) that it is time to end their relationship after three years. Later on in the book, he does mention to Ellen that he had wanted to break up with her earlier but due to the illness of her mother that would be in bad taste. However, that doesn’t stop him from breaking her heart just a month after she buried her mom. That also meant that the little boy that Saskia had essentially raised and bonded with, was out of her life forever.
I didn’t want to like Patrick and it was not until the end of the book that Patrick was redeemed in my eyes. I did feel for him though; his life was turned upside down by this women. By the end of the book, Patrick’s character grew on me and I was glad for how his life turned out. I loved Ellen who was the main character throughout the story. My favorite part of the book that really showed the type of person she was—was when she realized Saskia broke into her house and baked them biscuits. What did Ellen do with the biscuits? She ate them. (Saskia was nothing compared to Glenn Close; there was no boiling of rabbits.)
Some things to keep in mind with this book from the same author that gave us Big Little Lies; The Last Anniversary and The Husband’s Secret is that this book is more of a women’s literary fictional piece and not one of a thriller or mystery like the books mentioned above. There is not a big twist that leaves the reader completely for a loss of words. This doesn’t make the book any less entertaining. I found myself in stitches at times and of course this subject matter was very thought provoking. All in all, it was a sweet story with a resolution for both sides.