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Book Review: Healing Lily by D. Stephenson Bond

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When a man is closed, there is always a reason. His heart, even the most timid heart, does not turn away from the world for reasons of its own. He is not by nature uninterested, but unnaturally wounded. And if you think that merely attention and desire will draw him out again, then you do not understand the injury that a woman can inflict upon a man’s soul. It is not a little thing. Some harms can never be undone.

But then again, the once-bitten, twice-shy victim of circumstance and off-course romance in D. Stephenson Bond’s fastidiously-tuned Healing Lily is a Jungian psychoanalyst who should have the wherewithal and know-how to heal thyself, to bounce back with resilience and aplomb by drawing upon many of Carl Jung’s psychological concepts and theories as alluded to throughout the novel – individuation, anima, archetype and synchronicity. But it’s an abstract and academic application of conjectures for Dr. Daniel Osgood, much in the same way the Beacon Hill, Boston resident has tenuously opted for the “shadow side of love” – from the shallow end of the pool of experience he splashed in, for “a libido attachment” as he calls it in all seriousness, so many years ago.

Furthermore, as he’s climbing into his mid-50s — but seemingly never out of his incapacitating and pathetic Mama’s boy passivity — the currently down on his luck Daniel is getting long in the tooth while stuck in stasis in his starry-eyed naïveté. Indeed, he's been caught up in his yesterdays – where “the past was close behind,” as Bob Dylan sang, by secretly-held and deeply ingrained psychological reasons. But you have to let the past overtake you; Daniel had to confront his preoccupations, then allow the groundwork to solidify: “Sometimes things have to be prepared in the inner life long before they are ready to bear the weight of living them in outer life.” After a total of 12 years of analysis Daniel was “as prepared as a man can be to face his deepest fear: fear of love is fear of life.”

Cue the present, cue the future, cue Lilly: levelheaded 9/11 widow and blue-collar budding singer/songwriter with, understandably, some emotional baggage (and a gratuitous “L”), who stumbles into Daniel’s life when neither thinks the time is right for a relationship. And prompt the sprains and strains of Football games and Classical strings: Each finds that something’s gotta give in the way of easier-said- than-done compromises and the conflicts to be found in big-lug brotherly hugs and standoffish habits dying hard.

Waiting in the wings, though, is a catalyst embodied in the myths, archetypes, and symbols embedded in Francis Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, both the novel and the stage adaptation that meant so much to Daniel in his youth and all through his life. “I think if you want to understand something about me,” he says, “The Secret Garden will show you just about anything you want to know.” Now again, he is confronted with the issues, themes, and profundity of the work as he serves as thesis advisor for another young woman, Laurel Wolff, who has chosen to write on Burnett’s classic work – which, moreover, was also Daniel’s topic for his grad school dissertation.

The personal “experiment” of seeing the stage adaptation of The Secret Garden, which for Daniel has a more Jungian slant than the book, gives Daniel the opportunity to be pried open, to “let himself become a man, not a doctor, and see if there was anything still there after all these years.” While the accompaniment of Lilly gives him support and courage to face his fears, to brazen out once again the mental and emotional “full force” (as he had described his very first viewing) of grief and joy, the ineffable theatrical encounter may have repercussions and hold hope for healing Lilly.

The author has set Healing Lily on an unobtrusive low-simmer of psychobabble, synchronicity, and Secret Garden subtext throughout, but elements of hackneyed prose and chick-lit scenarios boil over from time to time. Nevertheless, despite an inconsistent execution, Bond, who himself is a practicing psychoanalyst, has turned in a debut novel that – in its references and allusions to myth and Jungian psychology — floats and flows over fascinating and unique undercurrents. You just wish it would carry you away a little more, and a lot further.

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About Gordon Hauptfleisch

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Beautifully written review, Gordon! I’m rather intrigued.

  • Gordon Hauptfleisch

    Thank you, Christy.