Despite having agreed to review Queenelle Minet's In Memory of Central Park: 1853 - 2022, I really wasn't that excited about reading it. Described as "a thought-provoking work combining insight into the mind of a therapist, a poignant love story, and a commentary on both right-wing politics and our troubled environment" in press materials accompanying the book, I thought "Oh, no -- fiction with an agenda. That almost never works."I was wrong.
In Memory of Central Park follows in the tradition of the great works of dystopian fiction: Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World. Set in New York City in 2050, the novel's protagonist and narrator Noah is a psychotherapist with plenty of issues of his own. He's in love with his brother's wife Margaret. He struggles with unresolved resentment about his relationship with his deceased father. And he, along with the other characters, live in a city that's not only seceded from the United States, but has also encapsulated itself in a huge dome in order to protect itself from terrorism and other outside threats.
As you might imagine in this environment, Noah stays pretty busy with his psychotherapy practice. Though skilled at helping other resolve some of their own emotional problems, he's distant from those around him. His eventual affair with Margaret fails because he's unwilling to allow her to leave Adam, her successful and politically-connected husband, and move in with him (Noah, like many of the residents of the city, lives in a single room). He's frustrated because, despite his best efforts, he can't seem to help a difficult patient who's obviously dying. And he just doesn't get the ideas underlying "clown show" performances by an underground street theater group that seems to pop up everywhere.