I had been hearing about Lori Gottlieb's book for months before I actually got my hands on it.
My mom and sister both loved it, and every friend I spoke to who had already finished raved about how fascinating it was.
I wound up listening to an interview with her on one of my favorite podcasts, Girls Gotta Eat, and after that I placed an order for my own copy.
The book's full title is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. As the title suggests, the book alternates between stories about Gottlieb and her patients, as well as her own experiences seeing a therapist.
As I was reading, I was equally drawn to both sides. When Lori was in the role of therapist, I was in awe of her kindness and compassion towards Julie, a young patient dying of cancer. I wanted to applaud her when she managed to pull the full truth out of Rita, a patient who was deeply ashamed of her past. I marveled at her never-ending patience with an abrasive patient named John.
John and Lori's relationship gets many pages in the book, and I was struck by one of their closing conversations. On page 397, "Recently John and I talked about the beauty of the word sometimes, how sometimes evens us out, keeps us in the comfortable middle rather than dangling on one end of the spectrum or the other, hanging on for dear life. It helps us escape from the tyranny of black-or-white thinking."
I thought that framing felt particularly relevant during the pandemic, when we're struggling with the question, "Will it always be like this?"
While Lori is incredible as a guide to her patients, I found some of the most profound revelations came from when she was on the other side of the couch, sharing her questions, doubts and fear with her therapist, Wendell.
For example, on page 130, she is preparing to admit to Wendell that she hasn't been honest about the state of her career. She writes, "Allow me to get defensive for a minute. You see, when I told Wendell that everything was just fine until the breakup, I was telling the absolute truth. Or, rather, the truth as I knew it. Which is to say, the truth as I wanted to see it. And now let me remove the defense: I was lying."
It was interesting to hear how during her own therapy sessions, she would try to guess where Wendell was leading her with his questions. Sometimes she wasn't able to fully participate in the conversation, because she was so busy trying to figure out what move he was going to make, based on what she would do if she were the therapist in this same scenario.
Gottlieb also shares some truths about this profession. After running into one of her patients at Trader Joe's, she explains, "Here are some things you can't do in public as a therapist: Cry to a friend in a restaurant; argue with your spouse; hit the building's elevator button relentlessly like it's a morphine pump. If you're in a rush on your way into the office, you can't honk at a slow car blocking the entrance to the parking garage in case your patient sees (or because the person you're honking at might be your patient."
I couldn't get enough of this book. It was so human. When reading about Lori's patients, it was easy to empathize with their struggles. When watching her transition into the role of patient, it was amazing to see her admit things about her own life that had been deeply suppressed or avoided.
I always read the acknowledgments at the back of every book and I was stunned to discover that Taffy Brodesser-Akner, author of Fleishman is in Trouble, was an early reader of the draft. Gottlieb says, "Taffy launched her truth bombs when I needed them most." Lori lives in Los Angeles and Taffy lives in New York City, so I'd love to know more about how they became friends.
If you're looking for your next read, I can't recommend this enough. I was sad it was over.
*Image courtesy of Stanford Magazine.