Miss Match

Reality Check

Spin Doctor by Leslie Carroll
(Avon, $12.95, PG) ISBN 0-060-59613-9
Two hearts Spin Doctor has a fun premise for a contemporary womenís fiction novel: a Manhattan therapist counsels some of the women in her apartment building while they do their laundry. Susan meets with a different woman (or in one case, women) each day before the laundry room officially opens. Thereís new mother Amy, Faith the widow, Meriel the bored West Indian housekeeper, Claude and Naomi, (an ďalternative coupleĒ with adoption issues) and Talia, an injured ballerina. The women represent a cross-section of New York life, making for an ensemble cast. Susan offers a listening ear, a little sage advice, and a gentle nudge in the right direction.

The question for Susan is, who will help the therapist when she herself needs some help? Her teenaged daughter, Molly, is drifting toward a career in a fast-food restaurant; her son, Ian, is eleven and canít seem to move into puberty, and her husband, Eli, is spending a lot of time at the office, especially in the evenings. Plus, the family dog is incontinent. Susan canít shake the feeling that something is very wrong in her marriage. She just canít seem to figure out what it is.

Spin Doctor simply has too much going on. Itís virtually impossible to keep all these women and their problems straight, and since each chapter jumps to a different woman, there is no continuity in their stories. Several times I found myself confusing their problems, leading to mental images such as a seventy-year-old ballerina. Susan gets some page space every now and then, mostly in journal entries at the end of each chapter, but not enough to really delve in to her character any more than the others. Because the story is so fragmented, it made it difficult to connect with any of the characters. I really didnít care much about any of them, Susan included.

Susan eventually must face a crisis in her own life, and the women she counsels turn the tables and take care of her in return. The mysterious problem facing Susan and Eli will surprise nobody, as all the clues are right there. The dog subplot was annoying and seemed to exist only to get a cheap laugh. Molly and Ian felt fairly realistic, with no hint of the precious, and Susanís efforts to keep the lines of communication open with her kids was heartfelt.

But the kids canít carry the tale, and ultimately, the crowded plot and lack of depth in the characterizations doom Spin Doctor to forgettable status. At $12.95, itís no bargain. This is contemporary womenís fiction, with no hint of romance, so those looking for a love story should pass it by. Readers who prefer straight fiction may like it more. In any case, you may want to keep a scorecard handy.

--Cathy Sova

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