Book Doctor
Esther Cohen
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Book Doctor

Esther Cohen
251 pages
February 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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Arlette Rosen practically fell into the job of "book doctor." A friend in publishing knew about Arlette's love for books and asked for her assistance with an author. This first experience, helping someone flesh out ideas to get a book from the author's mind onto paper, was fulfilling and led to more people requesting Arlette's expertise. She is now one of the most respected book doctors in the business, having an innate ability to discern good ideas from bad ones and translating complicated thoughts into readable prose.

All is not as clear and concise in Arlette's personal life, however. She has spent many years with her boyfriend Jake, never fully committing to a true relationship, preferring to guard her heart and mind. Which leads to Arlette's other problem--she, too, is a frustrated author. She has a myriad of ideas but is completely blocked about how to get them out. When Arlette meets Harbinger Singh, her life begins to change in great and subtle ways. Harbinger is writing a book, a thinly veiled fictional account of his relationship with his ex-wife. A tax accountant by day, the incongruities of Harbinger's life may be just what Arlette needs to kickstart her life.

Book Doctor is an oddly entrancing story. Interspersed with the different query letters Arlette receives about potential books (all quite hilarious) is the tale of Arlette's self-discovery. Arlette is a difficult character for the reader to get to know. Frustrations with her life distance her from those around her, especially Jake. Harbinger's effusive personality gets under her skin and makes her more accessible to her friends and to the reader.

The comedy is what makes this book better and more unusual than one might imagine. Esther Cohen has a fantastic ability to find the humor in every situation, and the fact that everyone has a book to write has the reader turning pages to discover what's next. Marriage to a gorilla? The journey from Auschwitz to Hollywood? The ignoring of brown animals? Arlette receives letters about books on every topic conceivable. The only drawback of Book Doctor is that Harbinger and Arlette's relationship gets a bit...weird, for awhile. It's a necessary part of the story, but it's a little meandering and difficult to follow. All in all, Book Doctor is a rare treat. It's intriguing and highly original--I have never read a book like it. How refreshing to find an unexplored topic that has so many unique angles.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Melissa Parcel, 2005

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