The book party for Susan Shapiro’s debut novel Speed Shrinking was a welcome respite from the typical literary soiree. Last week, Shapiro and St. Martin’s Press celebrated her new release with wine and mingling, but in addition to the usual mix of writers and editors, there was another set of professionals in attendance: nearly a dozen therapists seated at a skinny table in Manhattan’s Housing Works book store.
In Speed Shrinking, Julia Goodman is a best-selling self-help author in Manhattan who’s having a meltdown. With her husband out of town for business and her best friend moved to the Midwest, she falls apart when her twice-a-week therapist announces he’s relocating to Arizona. In an attempt to find a quick fix, she dives into the therapy world, seeing a shrink a day at one point.
The therapists at the book party were also trying to make a quick connection, much like speed dating, and provide brief advice. Participants rotated chairs in three minute cycles (an emcee attempted to keep things in order but let’s be real: New Yorkers and their neuroses are apt to cause a bit of bottle necking.)
We like the idea of both the book and the event. The book is an easy read, perfect for vacation, and the main character has a weakness for sugar we find endearing. The therapy was nice and with the clock ticking there’s no beating around the bush (“I-feel-like-I’m-disappointing-my-mother-my-career-is-at-a-stand-still-I-am-getting-unclear-messages-from-the-person-I’ve-been-seeing”).
We left the event with shrinks’ business cards tucked into our purses, convinced we needed professional help—or else. Some attendees took the event very seriously: The woman in front of us, who had a notebook out to jot down advice, seemed to need a lot of help judging by her reluctance to leave her chair. And although we couldn’t quite decide if we liked the book’s protagonist or not—she’s a best-selling author with magazine covers and an Oprah appearance—by the end of our free-of-charge shrink sessions, we summoned some clarity and realized her problems are actually realistic and relatable.