Hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as an uncommon storyteller with a] trademark ability to probe the layers of the human psyche, Patrick McGrath has written his most addictive and enthralling novel yet. Charlie Weir's family is comprehensively dysfunctional -- abandoned by his father, his mother ravaged by that betrayal, and his brother, Walt, a successful artist, less Charlie's ally than his rival. So it's hardly surprising that he should find a vocation in psychiatry in New York City, counseling traumatized war veterans returning home from Vietnam. Agnes Magill, the sister of one damaged soldier, soon becomes Charlie's wife. But the suicide of her brother, Danny, ends the marriage, leaving Charlie to endure a corrosive loneliness even as Manhattan grows steadily more dirty and dangerous around him. Then, in the haunting aftermath of Charlie's mother's death, Agnes returns to offer him the solace that he has never been able to provide for her. Almost simultaneously, he is presented with a quite different anodyne -- a volatile woman whose irresistible beauty, tinged though it is with an air of grievous suffering, jeopardizes everything he has hoped might restore his dwindling faith in his calling, his future and himself. As Charlie's hold on sanity weakens, and events conspire to send him reeling headlong toward the abyss, the themes of family, passion and madness - by now synonymous with Patrick McGrath's writing -- rightly assume the inevitability of myth, as Tobias Wolff has written of his work, in fiction of a depth and power we hardly hope to encounter anymore. A genuine psychological thriller, Trauma is an experience at once unnerving, unsettling andutterly riveting.
Toronto, ON : Doubleday Canada : 2008
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