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GOOD MORNING, MONSTER by Catherine Gildiner

Therapy books are hot right now (go figure!), and there is a trio of them in particular that have been making the rounds: Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb, Group by Christie Tate and Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner. I am interested in this niche and just tackled one of them: Good Morning, Monster. This memoir, about five of the toughest cases Dr. Gildiner worked on over her career, is a fascinating look at how she approached these patients with extremely traumatic backgrounds that caused serious long term, negative repercussions in their adult lives.

Why I picked it up: Good Morning, Monster was recommended to me by Katie Bassel, Senior Publicity Manager at St. Martin’s Press, and it was one of the hot books of fall 2020.

To prepare for her book, Gildiner, a Toronto-based author and psychologist, looked back on her career and chose five of the most challenging cases she had ever worked on: Laura, Peter, Danny, Alanna and Madeline. Each of these patients had had unspeakably difficult upbringings: abuse (emotional, physical and sexual), neglect, being forced into adult roles at very young ages. And now, as adults, they had all sorts of issues – inability to love, impotence, fear of abandonment, inability to grieve, irrational fear, on and on. Gildiner describes these five as heroes for what they were able to overcome through therapy, and she’s right.

Each section of the book focuses on one patient. Gildiner takes her readers through the process of getting to know the patient, learning about their families and their past, and then kicking off their therapy. Gildiner approaches each one like a puzzle, trying to uncover their secrets and understand how what happened to them when they were young led to the deep-seated problems they had as adults. She explains her strategy for treatment and how different principles of psychology apply in each individual case. She also admits to mistakes she made while treating these patients, owning up to her own fallibility and acknowledging the often fragile threads that bind therapist and client.

I really liked Good Morning, Monster. I was hooked from the very start, eager to learn about these patients and how Gildiner would approach helping them. There are some very sad and disturbing stories in the book, though. The evil that lurks in some people’s hearts truly knows no bounds. Alanna’s was perhaps the toughest to read, but really, they were all tough. If you don’t know a lot about psychotherapy, or if you’re skeptical of it, Gildiner does a good job of explaining how basic psychological principles applied to her patients’ individual cases and the roles they played in their treatment and recovery.

I listened to Good Morning, Monster on audio. It was narrated by Deborah Burgess, whose voice seemed to match perfectly how I pictured Gildiner in my mind (or was it the other way around?). Her performance was a good blend of clinical and empathetic – just right for this book. I had some long stretches in the car with this audiobook and found myself totally engrossed.

Good Morning Monster was book #1 of 2021. It satisfies the memoir category of the 2021 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.