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The Girl on Mill StreetReview - The Girl on Mill Street
A Novel
by Peter Gillboy
Brilliance Audio, 2017
Review by Christian Perring
Aug 15th 2017 (Volume 21, Issue 33)

Annie Taylor has a psychotherapist father and an Indian stay-at-home mother. She has a sister a few years younger than her. They live in a small town by the Hudson in upstate New York. She is 19 years old as she narrates her story, which starts with her mother's disappearance ten years before. She just vanished one day, and the police searches turned up nothing. Although Annie is vague about the details, it soon becomes clear that her father has been arrested for his wife's murder, and she is convinced that he could never have done it.

Her father, Simon Taylor, is the author of a series of best-selling books about romantic relationships. Many people think of him as a sex-therapist and he seems to have very liberal views about sex. We get some quotations from his books and comments from former patients. He encourages couples to explore all parts of their sexual desires and to have sex frequently. Once he is under suspicion for murder, his books become a stronger source of disapproval from neighbors and evidence that despite his loving marriage, his Freudian views emphasize that everyone has a dark side with an appetite for control and destruction, and this is taken to be self-description. Sunny, his wife, is extremely attractive, but unlike him, she is religious. She is a Sikh and although she says little about her particular beliefs, her religion is important to her. It makes her seem especially foreign to Simon's parents and the local townspeople.

So The Girl on Mill Street is a meditation on relationships and psychology. Although Simon Taylor is meant to be a Freudian, and the book chapters all start with a quote from Freud, it doesn't add up to an elaboration of Freudian ideas. Instead, it provides some rather optimistic pop psychology about the power of sex to hold people together. But as the story goes on, there are more details about Simon's past life which show that he hasn't told the complete truth and give more reason to believe he might have killed his wife. Annie becomes very involved in his legal defense and gets into fights with the fancy lawyer her father has hired.

While not massively profound, Gillboy's book is provocative and entertaining, and wraps up in a satisfactory manner. The performance of the unabridged audiobook by Soneela Nankani has lots of energy and character, and is recorded professionally.

 

© 2017 Christian Perring

 

Christian Perring is Vice President of the Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry.


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