It’s always nice when the copy on the back of the book doesn’t give away too much. In the case of Liane Moriarty’s The Hypnotist’s Love Story, the back cover summary doesn’t give away anything beyond the first chapter of the novel.
And that turns out to be the biggest problem with the book.
After years of unsuccessful relationships and a few on-line match duds, Ellen O’Farrell has finally met the perfect guy for her in single father, Patrick. But Patrick is harboring a dark secret, one that he quickly lets Ellen in on — he’s being stalked by his ex-girlfriend, Saskia. Seems that Patrick jumped into a relationship too quickly after the death of his wife, Colleen, and Saskia hasn’t taken the break-up well. And while Saskia has never caused any physical harm, the mental and emotional toll on Patrick is starting to strain things for him a bit.
Moriarty allows us to see both sides of the situation, alternating between first-person narration from Saskia (who has some very good reasons to spend so much time stalking Patrick, mind you) and third-person narration with Ellen. And while it turns out that Patrick may not quite be the catch that either Ellen or Saskia thought he was at first (once Patrick moves into Ellen’s beach-front house, he refuses to move his boxes of junk into the garage or toss them out completely), it’s clear that both Ellen and Saskia were living in the shadow of his deceased wife, Colleen.
For a long stretch of the novel, I kept expecting Moriarty to somehow pull the rug out from under us with a revelation that Saskia and Ellen are connected. And while Saskia has secretly become a client of hypnotist Ellen, there aren’t any more earth-shattering revelations than that. Which is why the novel seems to spend a lot of its time stuck in neutral as we get to see inside the minds of both women connected to Patrick. Things finally pick up a bit in the final quarter of the novel, but it honestly felt like there was far too much treading water before we get to the novel’s final pages.
As a character study, The Hypnotist’s Love Story works fairly well. And it’s a fun, light read, I suppose. But it feels more like a potato-chip type of novel — one that will fill you up for a bit but leaves you feeling unsatisfied in the long-run.