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Liane Moriarty’s latest work, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, covers all the bases when it comes to love. Old and new love collide as Ellen, a spiritual woman who has made hypnotism and self-help therapies into a career, falls in love with Patrick, a dashing man with a young son, whom she has found on an online dating sight. Before Patrick, Ellen worked day to day dealing with skeptics of her career, ornery patients, and a horrible love life. Now that Patrick has taken her out on a few dates, things start to become serious and everything seems to be looking up for Ellen. Even her most difficult patients are annoying her less.
Then, one day, while the couple is out having a nice dinner, Patrick blurts out that he has something he needs to tell Ellen. Before he can tell her his secret his nerves overcome him and he rushes off to the bathroom. As Ellen waits she contemplates what it could possibly be that he has to tell her. She already knows that he has a young son, but she just hasn’t met him yet. What in the world could it be other then he is telling her they are over? Moriarty accurately presents the mind of a woman trying to keep herself together in the face of one of her worst fears. Ellen immediately starts to pick Patrick apart in her mind and wondering how she didn’t notice that things had been just too good to be true and that she had been heading for a fall all along.
Patrick finally comes back, still extremely on edge, and tells Ellen that he has a stalker ex-girlfriend. Ellen is relieved and intrigued by this revelation and starts to ask numerous questions about the stalker. The most she can get out of Patrick is that the reason the relationship had ended was because it had run its course and that now his ex-girlfriend has been stalking him for the past three years. He is genuinely surprised by Ellen’s reaction to his secret, but warns her that it’s okay if she wants to leave him because other women have failed to deal with his stalker even after saying they didn’t mind and could handle it.
Ellen’s reaction is completely different from all the other women Patrick has dated since his relationship ended with his ex. Instead of being scared, jealous, or annoyed, Ellen is absolutely fascinated by this woman. She wants to figure out what makes this woman tick. What was the real cause of the relationship’s end, what could have made this stalker so hurt that she continues to hold on to her past love; why doesn’t she give up. More than anything else, Ellen wants to see the stalker. Unbeknownst to her, she has already met the stalker, who is actually one of her patients.
As Ellen gets closer to Patrick she pushes for more details about the stalker, but Patrick tries his best to change the subject or avoid the conversation altogether. When a few things that Ellen does start to draw out memories of his times with his stalker, Patrick must decide whether or not to reveal to Ellen the truth behind the entire affair. Moriarty’s portrayal of a man and woman longing for a new love that will last and draw them both away from the past’s pain is journey that many readers will be able to relate with.
Readers may even find themselves reluctantly identifying with some of the feelings of hurt, longing, and need for control of the stalker. But they will also see the emotional instability of this character and the style that Moriarty uses when writing in the voice of the stalker shows a bit of craziness not seen in Ellen’s narration. The way the stalker talks and thinks is relatable, but at the same time unsettling. She just cannot let go and it comes to the point of downright creepy.
The switch between narrators allows readers to be nearly omniscient in their knowledge and they will find themselves wanting to shout at Ellen that the woman she is helping in therapy is the stalker. There is no way that readers will not become attached to Ellen and want things to turn out well for her. They will also find themselves questioning Patrick’s secrecy and the stalker’s sanity. Overall, The Hypnotist’s Love Story touches on emotional issues that everyone may have or will face in their lives and it gives great insight into the mind of all three parties of that situation. Readers will not want to set this book aside until they have read the last line.