The Reunion

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Other Side of the Window by S. Z. Berg

The Other Side of the Window tells the fascinating story of a young woman who battles the debilitating effects of a psychological disorder. It is an absorbing tale, very well-written, fast moving, and extremely enjoyable.

The story centers on Savannah, a reporter for a small-town newspaper who has an obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is told from her viewpoint, often in the first person.  It is difficult to write an entire book in this mode, but Berg succeeds. I cannot imagine that the story would have been nearly as effective nor as entertaining if told in any other way.

I wish that I could describe the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorders to my psychology students half as well as Berg presents them in her story. People today use “OCD” much too often and much too freely. They apply it to a person who wants the house to be in order or who wants some task to be performed in a certain way. Obsessive compulsive disorders are much more than this, and the author presents us with a vivid picture.

We watch Savannah, for example, as she repeatedly washes her hands, scrubs her body, opens doors with a paper towel, and consumes multiple glasses of wine, all to protect herself from germs. We see her perform actions in sets of threes. We see her standing in the ball field, repeatedly hitting the ball and running the bases because It insists that she do it. We see that Savannah is very aware that she has a disorder, and she desperately wishes that she could be different.

Toward the end of the book, the author makes it clear that she does not think highly of either psychotherapists or pharmaceutical companies, and she proposes an unconventional theory for the origin of at least some psychological disorders. While I do not necessarily accept her conclusions, she is quite right when she points out that we do not really understand the causes of disorders and that no form of therapy works for everyone.

Whether you are a psychologist, as I am, or whether you simply want a good, entertaining story, you will find it in The Other Side of the Window.

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