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Review of Rebecca Ivory's Free Therapy – tantalizing revelations and surprising twists in tales of directionless women.

Review of Rebecca Ivory’s Free Therapy – tantalizing revelations and surprising twists in tales of directionless women.


The newest Irish author, endorsed by Sally Rooney, presents a collection of short stories for their debut work. These stories truly reflect the experience of a modern young woman, with a keen observation and an apathetic sigh. Monotonous jobs and a reluctance to attend them, disappointing men and yet still desiring them, and subpar living situations are prevalent themes in these suffocating tales of directionless females.

The title is not merely charming: it is expected that Rebecca Ivory would express gratitude to her therapists in her acknowledgment. She excels at uncovering the complexities and subtle changes in our perception of ourselves and those around us; she uncovers the vulnerable and embarrassing wishes and illusions that lie beneath our words. Her characters are often aware of their own issues, but unable to move past them – trapped in a state of paralyzed inaction. They are defeated by simple tasks; one cannot even change a lightbulb, while another struggles to fix a broken bike light, seemingly content in remaining in the darkness.

Although these stories are carefully observed, with Ivory excelling at portraying the awkward moments in a bad sexual encounter, the stories about insecure and lonely members of Generation Z can be less fulfilling. While as character studies they may have had more impact if extended to a novel length, they do not always have the sharpness of a truly great short story. However, the ones that deviate from the common theme of twenty-something distress tend to stand out more in readers’ minds.

Push and Pull makes for an arresting case in point: a look back at teenage friendship soured by competitive weight loss that sharply pins down power struggles among adolescent girls. In The Slip, a dead cat and an SUV combine to test a middle-aged man’s patience. In Settling Down, a woman becomes obsessed with a damp specialist who looks at her mould-riddled flat after the landlord blames her and her boyfriend for causing condensation (“how inconsiderate of you… breathing in your own home”). Ivory performs many small, delicious reveals and rug-pulls in this study of modern relationships and the rental market – a fine display of her talents.

Source: theguardian.com