The Treatment

Fiction

Jake Singer is an anxious young schoolteacher in New York–barely on speaking terms with his father, recently abandoned by his girlfriend, and heading for a life of compromise and mediocrity at a prestigious New York prep school. Emotionally paralyzed by a case of the vapors, he embarks on a course of psychoanalysis with a maniacal Cuban-Catholic Freudian–Dr. Ernesto Morales, therapist from hell, a man who wields his sarcasm like a machete in the slash-and-burn process he calls interpretation. Morales’s accent and tactics are worthy of the Spanish Inquisition, and Jake is just trying to keep him at a distance while he plans his escape. But when he meets socialite widow Allegra Marshall, and finds himself upwardly mobile in the Manhattan of serious money and glamour–as he bounces from the couch to Allegra’s bed in the allegedly real world and back again–his whole life begins to take on the eerie, overdetermined quality of an analytic session.While he struggles to resolve the psychic grudge he bears his parents, Jake becomes embroiled in another parental conflict–of a different kind and with even higher stakes–that may threaten the future of one of Allegra’s adopted children. And if from his horizontal vantage point on Morales’s couch Jake’s world has started to feel suffocatingly predictable, life beyond the couch makes it clear that the world’s true organizing principles are chance and accident: that the only indisputable axiom is happenstance. With wit, grace, and style, Daniel Menaker has written a hilarious novel about coming to terms with life’s unruliness, about trying to extract meaning from chaos. Jake gets the Treatment–not just from Morales but from the world–andhis notion of unending improvement collides with the possibility of taking pleasure when and where he can, and learning to accept love in place of perfection.