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 intended.

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 realized.

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