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A Season Among Psychics by Elizabeth Greene

Reviewed by Ursula Pflug

A Season Among Psychics is a novel but would also do well in the Spirituality section of the bookstore. It's a sympathetic portrait of one woman's life and her struggles to stay afloat when circumstances turn bad on her. Recovering from a loveless marriage with a moody man who may have mental health problems, Judith is also struggling in her job as an English professor and mothering a sweet autistic son who needs extra attention, which she is happy to provide. Responsible and committed in every area of her life, she is also heartbroken. Why did her husband turn mean? Academics at the same university, their romantic period consisted of late night campus office visits bolstered by chocolate, coffee and sherry, pleasant indeed but those days are long over. When Judith is ambushed by a colleague as happens so often in academia, her husband doesn't step in to defend her and in hindsight, she feels this betrayal was the beginning of the end. Foundering, Judith seeks spiritual help at a psychic fair, and this is where her 'Season Among Psychics' begins.

A confession: I've gone to psychics. Not just to play, but for insight. I have an aunt who is a professional crystal healer. Her designer and professor mother spoke more about astrology and the work of Rudolph Steiner than whichever strain of Christianity she grew up on in her village outside Berlin. I appreciate the work of medium Krow Fischer and have reviewed her channelled book, Weavers of Light in the Peterborough Examiner and elsewhere. I've experienced beneficial effects from a wide variety of alternative therapies. Because of my family’s engagement, it's the water I grew up drinking, and turning my back on it would be a little like walking away from the church. In the right hands there's something to it, even though, as psychics are unregulated it's definitely an instance of buyer beware. Discernment is crucial. It's often the vulnerable who turn to alternative healers of all stripes, and even though she's such a thoroughly sensible sort, we worry for kind-hearted Judith when she signs up for an expensive course in the 'Results System' with a healer she meets at the fair. She's been so skewered. We don't want it to happen again.

Judith is as always conscientious, doing her homework religiously, whilst disliking facilitator Rosetta's chilly distance. Isn't the goal of healing partly to rescue ourselves from the icy walls of protection we have built in response to trauma? The 'Results System' struck me (and Judith) as a complicated modality, as mind-bogglingly convoluted as Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I'd never heard of Margaret Field Kean's work, although Greene tells us in her afterword that it was a real thing.

The book's trajectory is a map of the course, as well as an account of a telepathic affair Judith has with a writing mentor and theatre artist she met at another class at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Because I've been exposed to various systems of spiritual healing I found the narrative both familiar and interesting, and others may find it a window into a world they know little about. Nevertheless, I found the descriptions of the minutiae of the 'System' and the participants' attempts to learn it a bit lengthy at times.

Where Greene really shone, I found, was in her descriptions of relationships. Judith meets an artist and single mother in class; they make friends, hanging out on the balcony during breaks to make snarky remarks about the teacher and generally sympathize with one another's problems. This is one of the most finely drawn pictures of an emerging friendship between women that I have read. As the protagonist and Vivienne begin to feel stronger because they have each other, we feel stronger too, and this seems a larger gift than the 'System' itself, both from the women to one another and from Greene to us.

A Season Among Psychics is published by Inanna Publications.

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