Dr. Claire Starley stands outside an old Victorian house that looks more like a set from a horror film than a suitable clinical setting. She has heard and read a great deal about the man who conducts business inside these walls, and she can’t decide whether he is a genius or a crackpot. She is here to observe Dr. Tom Warren, a man who claims that, through an AA-like support group, he can effectively rehabilitate convicted sex offenders.
Claire has worked with sexual predators before, and so she is skeptical that Dr. Warren can show her anything truly groundbreaking. And beyond all that, she is just not sure how comfortable she is sitting in on a meeting between grown men who have abused people sexually. Still, she pushes through the door to the basement meeting room, feeling ready for just about anything.
As a transplant from the South, Claire has never felt quite at home here in charming Mountain Brook, Washington. She has a happy marriage to a physical therapist named Miles. The two share a lovely home on the hillside. Her psychotherapy practice is thriving and well balanced. And yet she can’t shake the feeling of ennui that has lately begun to overwhelm her daily life.
That first meeting with Dr. Warren’s group proves to be a revelation – not because Dr. Warren’s methods are anything new, but because he seems to be producing results. Claire has always believed that people who abuse other people sexually are unable to be rehabilitated. And yet here in this first meeting, she witnesses a real breakthrough with a sex offender named John. As uncomfortable as Dr. Warren’s approach to reaching this breakthrough makes her, she can’t deny that it occurred, nor can she deny the intrigue that this fact stirs in her mind.
In a matter of weeks, Claire has inherited Dr. Warren’s practice and now presides over a small group of convicted sex offenders. There is John, who touched his niece after her parents went to bed. There is Bill, who turned his back on his mother’s unyielding love to become a rapist and peeping tom. There is Eric, the defiant pedophile who was abused as a child himself. And then there is Kirk, who met a traveling salesman as a child, a man who kept him as a sex slave for many months. With each of these men, Claire makes progress. With each of these men, hope can be found.
The others don’t prove so easy. Jerome, an upstanding and well-recognized pillar of the community, is more obstinate than most, despite a clear record of sexual abuse against preteen boys – to say nothing of a domineering Aunt Lenore who will stop at nothing to get him to overcome his demons. Larry, perhaps a demon himself, has stories that make even the hardened Dr. Starley’s skin crawl. Stephen, a young man whose father holds more sway over Mountain Brook than perhaps any other, threatens to disrupt the very foundation of Claire’s practice, if not her personal and financial life. It is these dramas that Dr. Starley must overcome.
With its many unexpected turns and its unusual and sometimes unsettling cast of characters, Mandated is a story of unheralded triumph over adversity. It is a story of poignant moments between troubled men. And in the end, it is a story of one woman’s courage to effect real change in the lives of society’s most indisputable pariahs.