"Kathryn Harrison is a wonderful writer...Spellbinding."
- The New York Times Book Review
"A juicy story of psychosexual suspence"
- The Wall Street Journal
"Shockingly complex and compulsively readable."
- O, The Oprah Magazine
"[Envy] has to be considered another succcess for one of the most interesting writers of her generation."
- St. Louis Post Dispatch
"Complex and disturbing... Envy is a masterfully constructed, insightful novel of psychosexual suspense that explores the destructive power of loss, betrayal, guilt and envy...an engaging, beautifully written story."
- The Boston Globe
"A compelling, beautifully written, well-constructed look at family problems that initially might seem insurmountable....Harrison is a truly gifted writer."
- Deseret Morning News
"The characters, their conflicts and their conversations do seem real, and their story, however improbable, will keep you turning the pages."
"Her ability to train an unflinching eye on some of the more frightening aspects of eroticism and the human psyche, combined with her uncommon wisdom, distinguishes her as one of the finest and most fearless storytellers writing today."
"Envy is full of Harrison's astute, often mordant powers of physical and psychological observation...the fact is that Kathryn Harrison is one of our more earnestly impassioned and intellectually engaging players. Long may she run."
Will has a good sex life-with the woman he married. So why then is he increasingly plagued by violent erotic fantasies that, were they to break out of his imagination and into the real world, have the power to destroy not only his family but his career? He's about to lose his grip when he attends a college reunion and there discovers evidence of a past sexual betrayal, one serious enough that it threatens to overpower the present, even as it offers a key to Will's dangerous obsessions.
Hypnotic, beautifully written, this mesmerizing novel by "an extremely gifted writer" (San Francisco Chronicle) explores the corrosive effect of evil-and how painful psychological truths long buried within a family can corrupt the present and, through courage and understanding, lead to healing and renewal. "Like Scheherezade in the grip of a fever dream, Kathryn Harrison . . . has written one of those rare books, in language of unparalleled beauty, that affirm the holiness of life," said Shirley Ann Grau, about Poison. And the same can be said about Envy.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
Starred Review. William Moreland, the 47-year-old New York psychoanalyst at the center of Harrison's sixth novel, has a family that's awash in betrayals. Will's father, a retired veterinarian turned photographer, is having an affair with the owner of his gallery. Will's brother, Mitchell, a long-distance swimmer with "a name as recognizable as that of, say, Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods," is estranged from the family. And ever since Will's 12-year-old son died three years ago in a boating accident, his wife, Carole, has been emotionally and sexually distant. All these wounds pucker open when Will attends his college reunion and runs into a statuesque ex-girlfriend who left him 25 years ago when she may or may not have been pregnant with his child. That past betrayal becomes entangled with the others in Will's life and leads to further transgressions and revelations. Given the steamy, soap-operatic nature of this plot, it's remarkable how Harrison renders it emotionally plausible, in sinuous, sensitive and often funny prose, exposing the raunchiness of sex and the "obscene" nature of mortality. Will's profession as an analyst seems too convenient--allowing Harrison to analyze her own novel through the voice of her main character--but this is a pardonable flaw in a book so juicy and intelligent. (July)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 10, 2006
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Excerpt from Envy by Kathryn Harrison
Will leans out of the driver's-side window toward his wife. "It's not too late to change your mind," he says.
Her dark glasses show him the houses on their side of the block, greatly reduced and warped by the convexity of each lens. The fancy wrought-iron bars on their neighbor's windows, the bright plastic backboard of the Little Tikes basketball hoop one door down, the white climbing rose, suddenly and profusely in bloom, on the trellis by their own mailbox: it's as if he were studying one of those jewel-like miniatures painted in Persia during the sixteenth century; the longer Will looks, the more tiny details he finds.
"Did you remember to bring pictures?" Carole asks.
He points to an envelope on the seat beside him. "I mentioned the pool at the hotel?"
"Babysitting services? Pay-per-view?"
"Come on, Will," Carole says, "don't do this to me."
"Make me feel guilty." Her bra strap has slipped out from the armhole of her sleeveless dress, down one shoulder. Without looking, she tucks it back where it belongs.
"You know I'd make it up to you," he tells her. She smiles, raises her eyebrows so they appear above the frames of her sunglasses.
"And how might you do that?" she asks him.
"By being your sex slave."
She reaches behind his neck to adjust his collar. "Aren't you forgetting something?" she says.
"You already are my sex slave."
"Oh," Will says, "right." The errant strap has reemerged, a black satiny one he recognizes as belonging to the bra that unhooks in front.
Carole ducks her head in the window to brush her lips against his cheek, a kiss, but not quite: no pucker, no sound. For a moment she rests her forehead against his. "I just can't deal with it. You know that. I can't talk about Luke--not with people I don't know. And the same goes for your brother." She pulls back to look at him. "If you weren't such a masochist, you wouldn't be going either."
I'm curious, Will thinks of saying. It's not as simple as masochism. Or as complicated. Carole steps back from the car door.
"See you Sunday," she says, and her voice has returned to its previous playful tone. "Call if you get lonely."
"Oh, I doubt that'll be necessary." Will turns the key in the ignition. "I'll be too busy connecting with old friends. Blowing on the embers of undergraduate romance . . ."
"Checking out the hairlines," she says. "Seeing who got fat and who got really fat."
Will glances in the rearview mirror as he drives away, sees his wife climb the stairs to their front door, the flash of light as she opens it, the late June sun hot and yellow against its big pane of glass.
S S omething about the cavernous tent defeats acoustics: the voices of the class of '79, those Cornell alumni who made it back for their twenty-fifth reunion, combine in a percussive assault on the eardrum, the kind Will associates with driving on a highway, one window cracked for air, that annoying whuh-whuh-whuh sound. He moves his lower jaw from side to side to dispel the echoey, dizzy feeling. Psychosomatic, he concludes. Why is he here, anyway? Does he even want to make the effort to hear well enough to engage with these people? Everyone around him, it seems, isn't talking so much as advertising. Husbands describing vacations too expensive to include basic plumbing, referring to them as experiences rather than travel, as in "our rain forest experience." And, as if to demonstrate what good sports they are, wives laughing at everything, including comments that strike Will as pure information. "No, they relocated." "Ohio, wasn't it?" "The kids are from the first marriage." "She fell in love with this guy overseas."
He tries to picture the women's workaday selves: quieter, with paler lips, flatter hair. Still, on the whole they're well preserved, while the men by their sides look worn and rumpled. Receding hairlines have nowhere else to go; love handles have grown too big to take hold of.
"Hey!" someone says, and Will turns around to a face he remembers from his freshman dorm. "David Snader!" the face bellows to identify itself. With his big, hot hand, David pulls Will into a crushing hug. "Where you been!" he says, as though he'd lost track of Will hours rather than decades ago.
"Hey!" Will pulls out of the sweaty and, it would appear, drunken embrace.
"Are you here alone?" David asks him. He blots his forehead with a handkerchief.
Will nods. "Carole--my wife--she wasn't up for a long weekend of nostalgia with people she's never met before."
"Same here. Same here." David gives Will a companionable punch in the arm. "Where's Mitch?" he asks, and Will shrugs.
"Didn't make it. At least not as far as I know."
"Oh yeah?" David squints. "You guys not in touch or something?"
"Not at the moment."
"Well." He punches Will's arm again. "Guess that makes sense. All the travel. Media. Price of fame."