VIRTUAL LOVE by Avodah Offit
Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994.
reviewed by Jennifer Lemiech
On the book jacket, VIRTUAL LOVE is described as "Liaisons Dangereuses for the
electronic age, at once shocking and, in the most subtly sense of the word, romantic."
The book is about Marc and Aphra, two psychiatrists who agree to a "teacher
and student" relationship so he can learn sex therapy from her. Eventually,
though, these learning sessions in "space" bring the two much closer than
Marc and Aphra fall in love only in the end to discover they have more in common
than just their passion. They discover a new form of expression in the cyberworld.
We find they have problems with identities and roles, like being a father, mother,
son, daughter, wife, mother, man, woman, psychiatrist, patient. Issues of morality
plague their correspondence. Aphra writes about how her father dressed her up as
a little boy when younger. Marc discusses his father's neglect of his mother and
him. They discuss Marc's prostitute patient, Toni, and his attraction to her. They
talk about a man named Reilly, who masturbates to images of his daughter, or the
hotel chef at Aphra's parents' business that habitually raped his wife. Marc struggles
with not being able to read a story to or even hug his two-year-old daughter. He
feels his loveless marriage and neglectful father is to blame. Aphra also blames
her father for many of her problems. These two individuals share links of crisis,
and distress one another. Their correspondence lets them connect with one another
in a most intimate way.
Cyberspace allows Marc and Aphra to "talk" through the typed word. They
discuss feelings otherwise not communicated through the spoken word Their identities
are not as distinct or literal. It seems to be more complex than that. This especially
holds true for the end of the book. All they felt for each other is forced to take
on a whole new twist of fate when their fathers die in the same week, in the same
city. Eventually, they discover they are sister and brother. Their father had been
leading separate lives with separate families. Now, their passion for one another
is challenged. Offit successfully complicates VIRTUAL LOVE with a final climax, yet
certainly not the last in Marc's and Aphra's lives. A new connection is established
between Marc and Aphra, however, their "true" passion may no longer be
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