In this novella we are introduced to Malcolm, a retired counsellor who has just lost his wife and is struggling with his grief. To help deal with his feelings his daughter gives him a notebook and encourages him to write down memories of times spent with his wife. But as Malcolm begins to dream about his former patients, he uses the notebook to share his personal thoughts and previous cases from his time as a counsellor.
Over the course of Malcolm’s reminiscing of the past we meet a range of characters that Malcolm treated for a variety of phobias. There is former prisoner Max Howard, ruled by routine, who went on to suffer from chronophobia. There is also the sad story of Fynn Brown, who is striving to overcome his fear of heights so that he can make a fresh start.
I think for me, what made the overall story as a whole more touching was Malcolm’s connection to the characters and his involvement in their own individual tales. Through his eyes the reader can experience the emotions of the cases and Malcolm’s own progress in coming to terms with his bereavement is genuine and moving.
The Caseworker’s Memoirs is quite a sombre, pensive read as it deals with issues of mental health and grief, but it is also quite hopeful as well as Malcolm shares his reflections. Having studied a psychology based degree I found this study of phobias and human emotion extremely fascinating. Phobias aren't an issue widely covered in literature so I thought that this was overall a refreshing and thought provoking read.