A woman emerges from a brief stay in a mental hospital feeling painfully raw, clutching all her belongings in a paper bag. The world she re-enters is clouded by experiences of loss, marital discord, and self-doubt. Trying to understand her place in that world, she undertakes therapy with a psychiatrist as different from her as he could be.
Monologie is a series of letters written by that woman to her psychiatrist.
Although his replies are never heard, a picture gradually emerges of two people struggling to communicate across differences in gender, race, age, culture, and language. She is a transplanted Midwesterner, of Jewish and Irish parentage; he is younger and has come to New York from Haiti. She writes and speaks to him in English, although she understands a bit of his native French. Together they try to understand who she is and what has happened to her.
The letters, and the narrative into which they are woven, reveal a complex woman actively engaged in the process of self-discovery and self-definition. As the story continues, it becomes clear that the letters themselves are part of the healing, the act of writing itself a part of the therapeutic process. Her use of language -- her own, his, and that of the writers whose work she has made so much a part of herself -- allows her to stand outside of herself to guide her own recovery.
There is no triumphant conclusion here, no therapeutic breakthrough. What Tess finds through her letters, and the good fortune of someone who reads and responds to them, is a way of accepting herself and her life. By the time the letters end, the reader knows she is on firmer ground. Has "therapy" actually taken place here, or did the writer heal herself? Readers will want to decide for themselves.