Book Review: We, Monsters by Zarina Zabrisky

Zarina Zabrisky is a highly talented writer whom I met in one of my writer’s groups.
No one excels at writing eloquently about the seamy side of life like a Russian writer, and Zarina Zabrisky follows deftly in the footsteps of Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Nabokov and Solzhenitsyn.
In We, Monsters Zabrisky valiantly explores the pathos and pathology of perversion.
Our heroine, whom we shall call Rose, is attempting to write a novel. She feels that her work will be enhanced if she becomes a dominatrix. “At two a.m., I was in front of the laptop again. I opened a new file, the blank page yearning. I wrote the story of finding YourFantasyWorld.com. All those details could become a novel one day. Everything could turn into a novel” Rose is a Ukrainian immigrant, married and the mother of three school-aged children.
Zabrisky’s novel is narrated by Rose, but it is frequently punctuated with foot notes by Dr. Michael Strong, a clinical psychologist and a leading expert on questions of sexuality. Dr. Strong’s bent is purely Freudian. He is the author of a clinical psychology tome called “Deviations.” Throughout Zabrisky’s novel, Dr. Strong “psychoanalyzes” Rose and the other dominatrices and their clients. One gets the impression that Dr. Strong is cheering the deviants on: “Like great Zen masters, deviants explode the bondage of reality and break free from the chains of everyday life. They are the Masters of their lives, and Slaves only to their passions. The real slaves are the mediocre majority, blindly serving the established clockwork mechanism of survival and procreation. The only way to become truly human is through freeing our energies, rising above good and evil and becoming what we are.” The Nietzscheian
perspective.
In the course of her career as a dominatrix, Rose has more and more difficulty in discerning fantasy from reality in her own life. She obsesses about her childhood in Odessa and her dead sister, Oksana, struggling to understand how much of what she remembers of her past is real.
One of her clients is Josh, a foot fetishist. Mommy, the chief dominatrix asks Rose “So what was strange about your guy?”
“That’s the thing. He seemed so normal.”
“What IS normal?” Mommy roared with her haunted house laughter, then coughed. She rotated her chair and faced me. “Are you normal? Or me? Who’s normal?” She raised her knobby finger. “No one, honey. No such thing as bloody normal.”
Most of the clients seem far from normal, but the only one who is really dangerous is Mike the (censored), a charismatic sort who, during their first session, only wants to talk. He draws Rose out to the point where she reveals enough of her past to him that he can fill in the blank spaces that she doesn’t want to deal with. The result will be like the collision of matter and anti-matter.

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