The Hypnotist’s Love Story has a cool premise for you: Girl dates boy and likes him. Boy likes girl, too. Yay, but there’s a catch: Boy has a stalker.
As a reader, you’re ready to side with the couple. Stalkers are bad news in real life. However, in author Liana Moriaty’s hands stalkers are awesome and hilarious and someone you want to high five. I pinky promise this isn’t an endorsement of stalking.
Ellen, the girl in our equation, is a hypnotist. She’s fantastic at what she does, reading people to help them figure out what they want. She also has a beautiful home by the shore that was bequeathed to her. Her life looks good from the outside, but she’s had her heart stomped on three times. So when her new beau, Patrick, starts acting funny she assumes he’s about to ditch her.
When Patrick finally tells her that his ex, Saskia, has stalked him for years, Ellen doesn’t react as he assumed she would. She’s fascinated. The relationship progresses in the express lane, and Saskia is right there with them at the movies, restaurants and Patrick’s house.
Moriarty tells this story through both Ellen’s and Saskia’s perspective so it’s like standing on both sides of the mirror at once. Like many stalkers (I’ve seen the show Stalked, Someone’s Watching so I’m an expert) Saskia is a professional who leads an otherwise normal, if lonely life. Saskia’s reason for stalking Patrick is disturbingly rational. They were living together for a long time. She adored and was practically raising his young son and her mother had just died when he abruptly tells her it’s over.
Saskia needs to feel as if she’s a part of their lives or believes that it will be as if she never existed. As sad as this sounds, her view of how others see her is not without humor:
There she goes, a twisted old witch, hobbling after her old pain-free life with outstretched clawed hands, trying to snatch it back.
Both women find one another interestingly peculiar. Though Ellen doesn’t actually see Saskia trailing them, Saskia makes sit obvious that they’re never really alone and these are some of the funnest parts. From a craft POV, Moriarty is a master at escalation. She also uses parallel story lines to examine relationships and flaws from all sorts of unflattering angles.
It’s easy to love both Ellen and Saskia, not so easy to see how either would fall for Patrick because he’s a bit of a lump. The scenes that go into Ellen’s various methods of hypnosis are intriguing and add another layer of insight to the whole story.
This is pure joy to read, but be warned that Moriarty writes emotion really well. When Ellen or Saski are happy, angry, frustrated, sad or unstable, so are you. I’m not a violent gal, but I really wanted to wring this fictional man’s neck.
I don’t recall if Saskia or Ellen notes that it’s actually surprising more people don’t stalk their exes, considering how traumatic breakups are. Finally, the story begs the question: Is love foolish when it’s not reciprocated?