Judith, at fifty, feels that her life is irremediably stalled, and she is depressed. Although she has a secure job teaching English Literature at a university, she is the single mother of a son on the autistic spectrum who has been lurching through the school system, year by year. Buried under the surface of her life, is her longing to write, and her deep feelings for Brian, a man who taught her in a creative writing program, and with whom she has telepathic connection. When Judtih meets Rosetta Kempffer at a psychic fair, she doesn’t imagine that anything could change a life that seems so hopelessly stuck. Rosetta suggests Judith take a course from her in psychic healing, and although Judith is skeptical, she signs up, not expecting it to make a bit of difference. Yet, during the course, Judith learns not only techniques and awareness of healing, but also the truth of “things not seen with the bodily vision,” and the profound connection between teaching and healing.
“A Season Among Psychics by Elizabeth Greene, is a rollicking ride through the mystical realm. Original, wise, and wildly funny. A story to savour.”
—Helen Humphreys, author of The Reinvention of Love and The Evening Chorus
“A Season Among Psychics speaks of what cannot be easily spoken, but what is keenly felt in the mind and in the body. Intimate, endearing, and bold in its exploration of the consciousness mind and unconscious body, or love vision, Greene dares to ask the overwhelming question: who and what am I? Mystical and filled with the common magic of everyday, each moment in the book glows like a rare jewel. You’ll want to read this book many times: once for curiosity and story, twice for the courage to continue on our human journey, and a third time for the sheer joy of craft.”
—Kath MacLean, author of Kat Among the Tigers and Translating Air
Elizabeth Greene has published three volumes of poetry: The Iron Shoes (2007), Moving (2010) and Understories (2014). Her poems, short fiction, and essays have appeared in journals and anthologies across Canada, most recently in Juniper, an online poetry journal, issues 1 and 3. She has poetry forthcoming in the League of Canadian Poets’ Tree Anthology, ed. Claudia Radmore and Lesley Strutt, and in Tamaracks: Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century, ed. James Deahl. She has also edited/co-edited five books, including We Who Can Fly: Poems, Essays and Memories in Honour of Adele Wiseman, which won the Betty and Morris Aaron Prize (Jewish Book Awards) for Best Scholarship on a Canadian Subject in 1998. She lives in Kingston with her son and two cats. A Season Among Psychics is her debut novel.
When I was fifty and thought my life was over, I let my best friend, Claire, persuade me to attend a psychic fair. It was a bright blue January morning, forty below, the snow plowed into bobble-edged cliffs by the side of the road. Everything was frozen except for the plumes of exhaust from car engines, if they started. It was an insane time to go out. I could have made coffee and snuggled into the couch with a book, lavender shawl around my shoulders, black cats curled on the rug, fire burning in the fireplace. But Claire was my best friend, and I was ready by ten, dressed warmly, when she came for me in her sturdy aging Volvo, a leftover from her marriage.
Claire was maniacally punctual, and we were much too early. There was a sagging red ribbon across the entrance to the room where the fair was to be held. We sat in the hall on a discouraged vinyl couch and tried to pretend we weren’t already tired of waiting. We were sitting in the dark looking into a hall bright with light—promising forbidden knowledge.
“Look,” whispered Claire, “there’s one of them now.”
The woman looked like a middle-aged angel from the top of a prison Christmas tree—short, neat blonde hair, shading toward brass, with bangs that could have been cut from under a bowl, pristine white sweater, otherworldly light blue eyes. I introduced myself and Claire, with a confidence that was mostly assumed. Psychics seemed very glamorous to me. I thought of them as having the inner freedom of writers, artists, magicians, a freedom I had always longed for.
Luck is having what you want or being grateful for what you have.
I was twisted with discontent. Two years ago I’d been married to a colleague, had a tenured job, had a son, all things I’d wanted….
I’d never been married before so I couldn’t tell when a marriage needed more work to get through rough spots or if it was going bad.… I remembered reading a new advice columnist saying, “My marriage was no bed of roses.” But what marriage was? And who would want to sleep on a bed of roses with all those unexpected thorns?
A Season Among Psychics by Elizabeth Greene
reviewed by Kate Rogers
Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme Vol. 33, No. 1,2 – winter/spring 2019
In its first sentence, the novel A Season Among Psychics entices the reader with empathy, wit, and anticipation: “When I was fifty and thought my life was over, I let my best friend, Claire, persuade me to attend a psychic fair.”
Elizabeth Greene’s dedication at the beginning of the book also drew me in: “For the teachers,” it states. If any group of professionals deserves such recognition, teachers at all levelsdo. We give so much. And as Queens University literature professor and novelist Elizabeth Greene would know, teaching is as much of a vocation as writing is.
Greene’s narrator, Judith, feels stuck. Judith teaches her university classes and slogs through grading while enduring a loneliness as routine as winter: “February slushed along….”
Judith also cares for her autistic son Davy alone, supervising his homework and piano lessons. She worries about Davy passing his exams and about his future.
After a difficult marriage breakdown and divorce from her son’s controlling father, Judith needs something to heal her life. Her discontent opens the door to the encounter with a psychic. Judith’s best friend Claire persuades her to attend the psychic fair because Claire wants to find a man and hopes a psychic can advise her about her future. Judith is both resistant and intrigued. At the fair they meet a psychic healer called Rosetta.
Fifteen dollars, three questions and an “African bone throw” with psychic Rosetta later, Judith is unsettled and struggling. She swings like one of the psychic’s pendulums between scepticism and yearning. Judith is a writer and hopes for some encouraging insights into the future of her writing, but Rosetta gives Judith advice she finds completely impractical—to quit her job so she can devote herself to writing. In spite of her doubts about the value of the psychic reading, Judith also asks Rosetta about her son Davy. She “holds him in her head” for the psychic. Rosetta predicts Davy will see more of his father, who may be awkward. Then Judith surprises herself with a third and final question about love. Judith hasn’t heard from the voice coach she met at the writers’ colony whom she hoped would return her interest. Yet she feels him reaching out to her in his mind. She is told she will see him again.
When I began reading A Season Among Psychics I was a sceptic, just like the narrator Judith. After an additional session with Rosetta about her unsatisfactory job and work environment Judith does not feel particularly healed: “…all my feelings about my job were now flying around like wasps.”
However, Judith overcomes her own scepticism about psychic healing enough that she visits Rosetta at home for another session, this time, “repatterning” of her reactions, energy blocks and expectations. She feels better for a while after having her energies realigned. Judith decides to do a thousand-dollar course with Rosetta to learn how to be a “Results Facilitator” and become a healer herself to earn more money to help with her mortgage, and hopefully heal herself along the way. However, Judith’s road to self-healing remains full of switchbacks shrouded in mist. Self-doubt tails her.
In Chapter 3, entitled “I am the Ice Woman,” Judith reflects on her expectations of life:
the things I’d thought would support me, my marriage and my job, seemed to have dissolved out from under me. I still believed in teaching, but I’d never been an orthodox teacher, and I was afraid I was dreadful at it. At the same time, teaching means you’re responsible for your students’ inner life and growth, and I couldn’t change simply to be like everyone else. I couldn’t say to my colleagues, I went into this because I thought literature was the most wonderful thing in the world and I wanted to help students see that. […] Teaching is an obscure job, but I felt the weight of its responsibility even more than when I’d started.
Much of the novel consists of Judith’s inner dialogues. They read very authentically and again and again, sparked my empathy,
I knew that life often brought you to places you didn’t expect. I didn’t expect my late forties to be such a slog, a seemingly neverending process of putting one foot in front of another without having much to show for it.
As Judith struggled with her life and her scepticism about healing it through psychic practice, I didn’t mind accompanying her on her journey. Her vulnerability, humour, and generosity make Judith a compelling character. I wanted to see where she was going in her life and became invested in her victories.
After Judith commits to the course with Rosetta on learning to become a psychic healer, scepticism returns. Rosetta holds the sessions at her posh apartment and is always beautifully dressed. She obviously earns a good living as a psychic, yet she encourages her students to give “repatterning” sessions for free. Judith thinks to herself,
She certainly hadn’t for me. And I thought… (the)course was pretty pricey. If I kept giving healing sessions away, I’d never get the money back, let alone make any. …But then I thought of Danile, the blind basket-weaver in Crackpot, who gives his first thirteen baskets away, to the despair of his wife, because ‘when you have a gift you give it.’ And I certainly hadn’t charged my eleven-year-old-neighbour, Evelyn, a slender, serious girl who tended to cling to her mother and didn’t laugh much. I wouldn’t have charged her even if it hadn’t been practice. What I’d learned: repatterning was like teaching. You had someone’s inner being in your hands, and you had to be careful of it. You could do a lot of damage.
Through her struggles with scepticism and self-doubt, Judith discovers that her “unorthodox” approach to teaching helps to make her a compassionate and effective healer. She begins to heal herself and heals her son too, even as he struggles with Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. A lot of other things happen to Judith on her road to healing. I hope you will find out for yourself where Judith ends up. I highly recommend A Season Among Psychics by Elizabeth Greene. It will be an engrossing winter read!
A Season Among Psychics by Elizabeth Greene
reviewed by Ursula Pflug
Ottawa Review of Books – December 1, 2018
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 by Elizabeth Greene
reviewed by The Minerva Reader – February 15, 2019
A fascinating, funny and thorough journey into the mystical realms of life in a human body and beyond. Whether you’re a believer in alternative healing or not, this book will refresh your soul and lift your spirits. Try something different and spend A Season Among Psychics!