I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
Dr. Jan Sayer is a psychologist who decides to put together a special therapy group composed of people who have been through things too strange for most to completely believe. Harrison is a retired monster hunter who is semi-famous as the main character of a book series about a boy who hunts monsters. Stan is a half-forgotten celebrity whose fame comes from having been held captive and partially eaten by cannibals. Barbara was held captive by the Scrimshander, who cut her open and carved messages on her bones that she has never seen but can't stop thinking about. Martin wears special glasses for reasons he refuses to explain, just as he refuses to take them off. Greta is covered in scars that are almost beautiful in their complexity.
All of these people feel isolated by their pasts, and Dr. Sayer hopes that group therapy will help them feel less alone. What she doesn't anticipate is that bringing them all together might set something terrible and dangerous into motion.
I first became interested in this after reading several intriguing reviews. I purposely did not reread those reviews when I requested this book. I remembered something about the characters doing group therapy sessions, and that they were all victims of horrible monster attacks, but that was it.
I initially expected this book to be entirely about the characters and their progress in therapy, and the bulk of the story did deal with that. Most of the characters weren't immediately open about what they'd been through, or why their experiences made them ideal for this particular group. For example, although Stan wouldn't shut up about how awful being gradually eaten alive by cannibals had been, and how horrible his life was since then, the one thing he was reluctant to talk about was what made his captors different from average human monsters. Every single character had something they were hiding, or didn't want to bring to the group's attention, and I enjoyed gradually getting to learn everyone’s secrets, as terrible as they sometimes were.
This wasn't entirely about the group therapy sessions, however. Dr. Sayer inadvertently put everyone in a position to get involved in one particular character's problems, which weren't as much in the past as everyone thought. This part was okay, but it all progressed very quickly, and I found I liked it less than just getting to know each of the characters.
There was a revelation at the end that I didn't see coming at all, and that actually made me tear up (in public, ugh!). Even though I didn't always like this story's characters (Stan and Martin in particular), I felt for them. I may have to give Harrison Squared, Gregory's book starring a young Harrison, a try.
(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)