Review: The Husbands and Wives Club, Laurie Abraham

I wish there were a whole section of the bookstore called “Journalists go do something really interesting and then write a whole book about it,” and it would include The Unlikely Disciple and Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers, and this book I want to read called Turkmeniscam, and it would also include The Husbands and Wives Club, which is the book that came out of Laurie Abraham’s sitting in on a couples therapy group.

I got this for Indie Sister for her birthday, but didn’t have time to read it before mailing it off to her. Next time I should give myself a bit more lead time, but honestly, the months are creeping up on me in a manner most iniquitous. Why is everyone born in March? Five March birthdays I’ve got to deal with, and if US immigration laws were so constructed as to allow my adjunct sister and apologist Soeur Catin to come live in Louisiana like we all want her to, it would be six.

As the daughter of a social worker and a crisis counselor, I am very, very interested in methods of therapy, and I have many opinions about therapists in popular media. There is a near-uniformity of TV and film therapists being (a) terrible at their jobs and (b) unethical, the weird exception being the therapist on Felicity. Don’t ask me why. Felicity is not my go-to show for emotional honesty, but Felicity’s therapist nearly always gives her solid, sensible advice. I have never been able to decide if J.J. Abrams did it on purpose, or if it’s a case of monkeys on typewriters. Mostly TV therapists are not very nice, not very good at their jobs, and probably pushing an evil agenda or at least trying to sleep with their clients.

So it was nice, in The Husbands and Wives Club, to see Laurie Abraham working hard to give a balanced portrayal of the therapist in her group, Dr. Judith Coche. I didn’t always agree with what Dr. Coche was doing, or the way she was approaching certain problems, but happily, neither does Abraham. Instead she dissects the interactions between the group members, carefully pointing up subtexts and biases to her readers, and giving some background on methods of couples/family therapy.

If you, like me, are intrigued by therapy, interactions between couples, and journalists who go do something really interesting and then write a whole book about it, The Husbands and Wives Club is for you! Or if you want to test-drive it, check out Abraham’s original New York Times article.

Why I read the end: I forget, actually. But it afforded me good spoilers about the people’s lives.

  • I wish that section of the bookstore existed, too. Then I might read more of those types of books!

    • I know, right? The only way I find out about them now is I tell anyone I talk to about books that this is the kind of book I really love, and then they give me recommendations. 🙂

  • Haha, yes, that should so be a bookstore section! I clicked over to the article and liked it, so I’m off to see be the library has the book.

    • I hope it does! I would be very interested to see what you thought of it.

  • Mumsy

    Oooh, I want to read this. Indie never loaned it to me, AS SHE PROMISED TO DO. (It’s okay, Indie! I know you’ve been busy!)

    If you talk to Catin Soeur, tell her Maman misses her.

    • Mumsy

      Except, I don’t care how many rude words she teaches you, she will tell you “Non, non, non, ma petite Jenny! You must not say this word!” We must call her Mignonne Soeur.

    • NOPE. Catin Soeur!

  • I agree with you that the portrayal of therapists on t.v. and in movies is sort of strange. Often they seem to have more severe problems than the people they are treating, and give the worst advice possible to the people on the couch. I know that it’s not really like that in the real world most of the time. It sounds as if this book got it right, and that intrigues me. I hadn’t heard much about this book, but now want to check it out. Once again, you have added fuel to my book buying madness!

    • Well, I mean, some therapists are terrible. But TV could do a much better job portraying what it’s like to do therapy, or be in therapy. I really wish they would. Darn TV writers.

      I would apologize to fueling your book-buying, but I love buying books sooooo….you’re welcome! instead! (I’m sorry. I know insane book-buying is not great.)

  • I’d go to that section, too! Looks like a good read so I’ll check out the article link. For the life of me I couldn’t remember the therapist in Felicity!

    • Oh, well, she wasn’t a huge part of the show. Felicity and Ben got in trouble about something, and they had to go see the school counselor for a while. I think her name was Dr. Pavone? She had frizzy hair and smoked and played classical music, and she didn’t put up with Felicity’s crap. 🙂

  • Ooh I love therapy books. This sounds fascinating – will check out whether it’s available in the UK.

    • Hope it is! I wouldn’t be surprised if it weren’t though — it seems like nonfiction often doesn’t make it across the pond.

  • JoV

    Hi Jenny!
    Glad to have you back from vacation. Hope you had a good one.

    You game for Wuthering Heights this Spring?

    • So excited about Wuthering Heights!!

  • When I own a bookstore (ha!), there will definitely be a “Journalists go do something really interesting and then write a whole book about it” section — those are some of my favorite sorts of books, but I hate having to dig through every section of the bookstore just to find them.

    • If you own a bookstore I will order all my books from it. 🙂

  • I really want to read this book because I am nosy and a terrible person.

  • trapunto

    TV and movie therapists–well there are *some* good portrayals, but mostly in older movies. Ordinary People comes to mind. I think the portrayals are so often negative because people are scared of therapists in the same instinctive way they are scared of tigers. I think that fear is the proof of how long Freud dominated the popular conception of psychology in America/Hollywood. All people *really* know about psychologists is that they are going to try to tell them they want to kill their father and marry their mother, an idea both ridiculous and scary, like all they really know about tigers is that they like to eat people. It’s an easy way for writers to tap into an already-present emotion.

  • Indie Sister

    This book stressed me out. It made me smoke a lot of cigarettes (this was before I stopped smoking them). I was thinking about getting married, but this book makes me never want to wed anyone. Ever. Or spend any time around married people–besides our parents of course. Or even couples at all. That’s it for couples for me. Now I know what they are thinking and it’s very stressful for me to even contemplate.
    I lent it to Mumsy though so we will see what she wants.

    Did you skip to the end to see who is secretly gay? I wish I could skip but I read the whole book until I got to the gaiety.

    • I didn’t know anyone was secretly gay until the person mentioned his gay experiences. Or, well, I guess the author mentioned it, but I forgot it instantly because I got distracted by how crazy and mean everyone was being.

      I’m sorry I stressed you out! I didn’t mean to stress you out with my birthday gift to you! I hope the Gina Welsch book was more relaxing.

  • Indie Sister

    When I said “what she wants,” I really meant “what she thought of it.” I think that thinking about smoking cigarettes derailed my brain. I’m sorry.