by Joy Fielding; New York, Atria Books, 2008, 448 pages, $24.95
Dr. Freebury is director and president of the Ontario District Branch, Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis, Toronto.
Charley's Web is the Web site of gossip columnist Charlotte "Charley" Webb. Charlotte, her successful sisters, Emily and Anne, and her addicted but talented brother Bram are the survivors of a dysfunctional family. Charley receives a letter from Jill Rohmer, a notorious child murderer awaiting her fate on death row. Jill asks Charley to write a book about her life, intimating that not all the facts emerged at the trial and suggesting that her lawyer, Alex Prescott, will facilitate a meeting. As Charley pursues this proposal she also begins to receive e-mails threatening both herself and her two children. These two developments prove not to be coincidental. Jill Rohmer has a severe borderline personality, and author Fielding shows good knowledge and understanding of the life experiences that contribute to the development of such a personality. She also describes very well the seemingly innate ability of these characters to intuit the true thoughts and feelings of those they interact with.
This is not a book that burns itself into your brain, leaving an indelible trace, but it does develop into a decent romantic thriller even if Fielding takes a little license with reality in the interest of the plot twist that develops near the end. On the romantic side of the plot, the author also reveals her understanding of the dynamics that result in the less antisocial but nonetheless damaging consequences of parental abandonment, whether physical or emotional, on the lives of their children.
I enjoyed reading this book and those who work with dysfunctional families and individuals with sociopathy or borderline personality disorder will undoubtedly be reminded of many professional experiences.