Click here to read reviewer Brenda A. Snodgrass's take on To Feel Stuff.
Elodie Harrington is all but permanently ensconced in the infirmary at Brown University, suffering from a variety of diseases that attack her body, one after another: encephalitis, fibromyalgia, seizures, mumps, various malarial symptoms, chicken pox, anemia, and assorted bouts of flu. Her education put on hold for the duration of the illnesses, Elodie has somehow escaped the bureaucracy that would put an end to her education, at least for the current semester.
A wraith haunting the halls of the infirmary, the quasi-student has captured the attention of Mark Kirschling, a doctor and professor on the campus who is interested in researching the nature of Elodie’s conditions. Kirschling attends his patient with a more than sympathetic eye, curiously unscientific and enthralled by the charmless girl, especially when she informs him of the apparitions she has recently been experiencing.
When Chester Hunter II is injured in a recent rash of campus attacks on students, his legs smashed by a baseball bat, he is admitted to Elodie’s once-private sanctuary, much to her delight. Although it is unclear if Chester will walk or participate in sports again, Elodie is undeterred, spreading her own ghoulish brand of happiness through the infirmary. In his pain and delirium, Chester is a willing victim, falling under the young woman’s spell.
Convinced that his patient is transitioning through a period of “psychic puberty,” Kirschling embarks on research into parapsychology with Elodie, convinced she has the gift of second sight. Meanwhile, the girl drifts from her sessions with the doctor during the day to the transports of her romance with Chester at night.
A decidedly unsympathetic character, Elodie is as vapid and sickly as a Victorian drawing room maiden, Kirshling a fawning popinjay at her beck and call. No shrinking violet in the expression of physical love, Elodie eagerly consummates her love affair with Chester, exhibiting no reservations and rhapsodizing over their future together.
Meeting with his college friend, a young man who declares his undying love, it becomes clear to Chester that he will be moving on after his release. Not to mention that Chester experiences an almost miraculous recovery that leaves his legs completely restored. When he returns to Elodie in the infirmary, she fails to evoke the romantic response of their earlier days, her emaciated form eerily skeletal.
Not to worry. Elodie has her mystical stranger on hand, the dark-haired young man who comes to her ever more frequently in visions. Is he a creature from the past? Only time will tell. In this particular teenaged wasteland, Elodie is queen, drifting through her romance-saturated days without any connection to reality.
The novel reeks of self-indulgence and precocious literary posturing, masquerading as a serious work of fiction for adults but more appropriate for a younger crowd.