These are the words uttered by hard-working, dedicated psychologist Dr. Pilar Alvarez as she deals with the antics of a colorful patient in Tracie Banister’s well researched, well written and immensely enjoyable fictional treasure In Need of Therapy. Having read another Banister gem,Twin Piques, I was already well acquainted with the stylistic beauty of her work. I expected In Need of Therapy to continue this tradition of excellence and I have to say, that Banister managed to exceed my expectations.
The main protagonist in this book, Dr. Pilar Alvarez, is a hardworking, compassionate and dedicated psychologist who opens her practice in looks and fashion obsessed South Beach. Banister does a flawless job in crafting Pilar’s clients. The reader gets an array of individuals with unique issues that require therapeutic assistance. It is an ingenious approach that Banister begins several chapters with the actual client files. This technique enables the reader to feel as if she is a silent voyeur on the session. In addition, Banister’s first person narrative style is extremely effective. This is, after all, Pilar’s story. While Pilar is listening to her clients’ feelings, the reader is privy to Pilar’s fears. This is a woman who gives her all to her clients as she guides them on the path towards a healthier lifestyle. Yet, the reader also becomes emotionally connected to Pilar and invested in her personal and professional journey.
Pilar’s journey includes navigating both her professional and personal lives. Although she is a caring psychologist, she has only recently established her own practice. Like any new business, she is constantly struggling to expand her client base. Margo, her devoted and loyal receptionist, is very helpful. Another ally is Dr. Jonathan Fordham, or Ford as the reader comes to know him. Ford is a successful doctor who quickly becomes a trusted friend and advisor.
Banister’s supporting characters are skillfully drawn. Pilar’s Cuban family is a cast of characters that enrich the narrative. The reader learns that her lawyer father generously provided the funds for her practice. But it is Pilar’s mother, Luisa Alvarez, who offers Banister a wealth of humorous material. The former beauty queen who Banister dubbed “The High Priestess of Histrionics” is a high maintenance drama queen hellbent for Pilar to get married since her daughter is fast approaching the “old” age of 30. Pilar’s oldest sister, Ana, is married to a lawyer and has several uncontrollable children. Youngest sister, Isidora/Izzy is an unemployed young woman who lives with Pilar, abuses her sister’s generosity and has a strained relationship with her parents. Further, Izzy’s penchant for finding trouble causes many problems for Pilar. The reader also meets some of Pilar’s extended family.
Finally, Victor, Pilar’s wealthy and stalkerish ex boyfriend, Sara, her swim suit designer friend, and Ford’s young son Nate, contribute so much to the plot.
Banister peppers Spanish words and phrases throughout the book providing an authentic look at Pilar’s Hispanic culture. Even if the reader doesn’t know Spanish, the way Banister incorporates the language is an asset not a deterrent.
Fascinating characters, an engaging and suspenseful plot, and humor make for a winning combination. In Need of Therapy strikes an emotional chord. It is a very satisfying book, a memorable page turner that I highly recommend.