Summary: Part 2, Chapters 7-12

Chapter 7  

At Theo’s next session with Alicia, she sits rigid and straight, and though she appears to be far more alert, she maintains her silence. Theo interprets this as a direct test of his abilities as a psychotherapist and begins to wonder if he’s wasting his time with Alicia. In a moment of frustration, he considers screaming at her, but instead asks her directly about her silence. As she stares at him without speaking, he fills the silence. After showing her his wedding ring, he talks about his own marriage to Kathy while she looks on confrontationally. He is finally able to provoke a direct response from Alicia, who shakes her head when he says that part of her must have loved Gabriel but part of her must have hated him too. He reiterates his point, saying that part of her must have hated Gabriel or she wouldn’t have killed him. Suddenly, Alicia stands up. Theo thinks that she might attack him again, but instead she walks out of the room.  

Chapter 8 

Theo feels that on some subconscious level, Kathy must have wanted him to know about her affair, which is why she left her email inbox open for him to find. For a few days, he acts as if nothing is wrong, avoiding her around the house and giving no indication that he knows about her affair. One evening, when he is home alone and stoned, he pours a glass of wine and then drops it, cutting his hand when he picks up the shards of glass from the carpet. After bandaging his hand, he first thinks about Kathy, whom he usually turns to when he needs help or support. As he thinks of Kathy, he falls into a bout of self-loathing, telling himself that it was only a matter of time before Kathy would leave him, as he feels that he was never worthy of her. He decides to confront her but then begins to doubt himself as he pictures her laughing. Ultimately, Theo is terrified of Kathy leaving him, as he feels that he could never develop a similarly close relationship with anyone else. He leaves the apartment to get some air and after a short walk finds that he has unconsciously made his way to the home of Ruth. He rings the doorbell, and she lets him in.  

Chapter 9 

Ruth offers him some tea, but after Theo said he could use something a bit stronger, she pours him a glass of sherry. Theo notes that it isn’t her usual policy to drink with her patients, but Ruth, who is no longer his therapist, insists that he is a friend rather than a patient. Ruth gives Theo space to talk, as she used to when they would meet for regular therapy sessions. He speaks at length about his current predicament, feeling as if he were speaking with a priest at confession. Ultimately, Ruth gets Theo to admit to himself that Kathy is bored with their relationship, which has no “fireworks.” Ruth responds sympathetically to Theo, noting the difference between real love and excitement, and suggesting that Theo is capable of loving Kathy in a mature way that she cannot return. Next, she suggests that he is re-enacting an emotional dynamic from his own childhood, attempting to love someone who is fundamentally incapable of returning that love. Theo insists that Kathy is nothing like his father, but he slowly comes around to Ruth’s position. She counsels him to “Break with the past,” and to free himself from repeating his childhood trauma. As he leaves her home, she hugs him, and he takes the bus back home, committed to leaving Kathy.   

Chapter 10 

When Theo returns home, Kathy angrily confronts him about his jar of weed, which was left out in the open. She says that she feels as if she doesn’t even know him, which produces conflicting emotions in Theo, who simultaneously wants to physically beat her and to cry into her shoulder. Instead, he goes to bed, and after she falls asleep, he cries. The next morning, they go through their usual routine and after she goes to work, he showers and takes a cold, hard look at himself in the mirror. He sees a miserable man who has aged overnight and feels that the final vestiges of his youth have disappeared. As he gazes at his own reflection, he reaches the conclusion that he cannot leave Kathy. Desperate, he tells himself that they can regain their former happiness and that he will forgive her some day when she finally decides to come clean about her affair.  

Chapter 11 

At The Grove, Theo looks for Elif. Finding her by the pool table, he attempts to engage her in a match, though she refuses as there is only one pool cue. When he suggests that they could share her cue, she responds with fury, and Theo reflects upon her intimidating size and appearance. Theo asks Elif about a past incident in which Alicia violently attacked Elif, documented in Diomedes’ case notes. Elif admits to Theo that she asked Alicia if Gabriel deserved to be murdered, and even pushed her for gory details. Theo feels that he now understands why Alicia attacked both Elif and him. As he leaves Elif, he receives a phone call from Max Berenson, Alicia’s brother-in-law, who arranges a meeting with Theo at his office the following day.  

Chapter 12 

Theo visits Max, a lawyer, in his office and notes that Max is not as handsome, stylish, or charming as his brother. Max is apologetic about his previous reluctance to chat with Theo, stating that he has grown hesitant to discuss the murder in the wake of the media spectacle that accompanied the trial, in which he represented Alicia. They look at a framed photo of Gabriel and Max acknowledges that he isn’t nearly as handsome as his brother, and then notes that they aren’t actually related by blood. Max was adopted by his parents, who believed that they could not conceive a child naturally and were then surprised to become pregnant with Gabriel. When Theo asks Max about his relationship with Gabriel, he is generous in his praise for his brother. When he asks Max about Alicia, however, he responds in a guarded fashion, insisting that he had a good relationship with his sister-in-law. Pushed on the point by a disbelieving Theo, Max admits that he loathed Alicia, whom he blames for Gabriel’s death. Max divulges that Alicia had long struggled with issues regarding mental health, including self-harm, threats to kill Max, and even a suicide attempt after the death of her father. Though he cannot remember the name of the therapist who met with Alicia at Gabriel’s insistence, Max recommends that Theo speak with Jean-Felix, an art gallery owner, if he’s looking for gossip. As he exits the office, Tanya, Max’s receptionist-turned-wife, suggests that he should speak to Paul Rose, Alicia’s cousin. She falls silent as Max appears, and Theo hypothesizes that she is afraid of her husband.  


As Alicia’s medication is reduced and she becomes more alert, Theo grows increasingly convinced that she is not “mad,” but rather, consciously refusing to speak. Though he is frustrated by her slow progress and unwillingness to cooperate, his curiosity about her only deepens. Diomedes, he admits, was perhaps right to describe Alicia as a silent siren, and Theo’s fascination with Alicia only grows as his personal life seemingly unravels. By this point in the novel, Theo’s personal and professional life bleed into one another. In his third session with Alicia, he finds himself speaking compulsively, rambling about his own marriage and even showing off his wedding ring. Later, Theo admits that this session was a step backwards, marking a real lapse in his professionalism and competence. Indeed, the line between patient and therapist becomes increasingly thin by this point in the novel. In his sessions with his own therapist, Ruth, she generally remains silent as he describes his feelings, giving him space to process his emotions aloud. In his session with Alicia, he is the therapist, and yet he assumes a role much more like that of a patient, venting his feelings while she assesses him silently. Her silence, he states, is like a mirror that reflects yourself back at you. Here, as elsewhere in the novel, Alicia’s silence invites interpretations that say much more about the interpreter than they do about her.  

Theo’s response to Kathy’s infidelity further calls his ability to lead treatment for patients into question. In his despair, Theo considers calling his mother for advice, but ultimately, he decides against this course of action, as she has too many problems of her own and “one drowning rat” cannot save another. The novel repeatedly questions the ability of a person who has not yet addressed their own problems to help someone else. Following his discovery of Kathy’s affair, Theo is wracked by feelings of shame, guilt, and self-loathing. The strength of his reaction shows just how much he has relied on Kathy to develop his own sense of self. Leaving her, he feels, would be like “tearing off a limb,” a line which emphasizes his absolute dependence upon Kathy, casting further doubt upon the success of his own healing and recovery. Similarly, Theo stops seeing Ruth and drops his dependence on drugs when he meets Kathy, but when he feels that he has lost her, he immediately begins to drink, smoke marijuana, and even makes an unplanned visit to Ruth in the middle of the night. Theo, then, is still deeply reliant upon external support structures. When he looks at his reflection in the mirror after resolving to leave Kathy, he sees nothing but an old man who has aged 30 years overnight, a distorted perspective that suggests that his only sense of self-worth and value stems from his relationship to Kathy. His decision to simply repress his feelings and to pretend he doesn’t know about the emails runs counter to his training and practice as a psychotherapist.