I have a confession to make: I am a huge fan of Long Island Medium, that hoaky reality show featuring Long Island, N.Y. housewife and spitfire extraordinaire, Theresa Caputo. Maybe it’s that big, bleached head of hair, or that infectious, down-to-earth Italian charm (so reminiscent of characters I grew up with), or her tattooed, tough-guy sweetie of a husband. Maybe I’m jealous of her remarkably well-adjusted and supportive (if sometimes snarky) teenagers who good-naturedly indulge having their mom on constant public display and their home and family's whereabouts continually on camera. Whatever the reason, there is something irresistible about this flamboyant television character. But what about her messages? Is there really any substance to the things she tells those bereaved people she meets on the streets? Or are her "readings" as fluffy as that hairdo?

When I am done crying (and yes, every single episode reduces me to tears), I cannot help but notice that she has usually said pretty much the same thing: “Your loved ones are still with you. All that guilt you’re carrying around over such-and-such? S/he wants you to stop that! The day you did that thing you did? Your loved one was there in spirit.” Where are all the dysfunctional S.O.B.’s who laid guilt trips on us throughout their lifetimes? Do they magically become loving and forgiving souls once they pass into the afterlife? (Maybe they do; I’m just asking . . .).

Sometimes—not always—Theresa offers up some validating tidbit or factoid that lends credibility to the spectacle. But who knows what goes on behind the scenes of that show, or how much Theresa has been prepped? Does she really know nothing of what people say during those supposedly off-camera “sidebars?” If I could be on that show, I'd probably spill my guts to the woman in a heartbeat! And how is it that Theresa just happens to have cameras trailing her everyplace she goes—to the nail salon, the gym, on an intimate date with her husband—just in case she feels the urge to “channel spirit?”

Wikipedia calls my lady a “television personality best known for portraying herself as a medium” (my emphasis). But whether or not Theresa is “for real” in the scientific sense, who among us wouldn’t love some validation that there is more to this life than meets the eye—and that certain "chosen ones" have the power to communicate with the “other side?”

Apart from the fact that I miss my departed brother (or perhaps because of it), my latest novel-in-progress (tentatively titled Stop and Frisk) features themes about losing a loved one and coping with the questions and regrets we inevitably feel when someone close to us passes. My main character, Paulie, consults a psychic to provide insights about his brother’s death—a supposedly random act of violence that Paulie suspects was actually a calculated shooting. (I incorporated the scene with the psychic to avoid having the dead brother leave a letter, as was done in The Husband’s Secret and so many other novels. However, my daughter has assured me that using a psychic is an equally trite and “tired” plot device. Sigh ...) I am debating whether to visit a real-life medium to see if I can be convinced one way or the other of their legitimacy. After all, I can justify something I'd otherwise consider a foolish self-indulgence as a valid book research expense.

What do you think, readers? Do you believe in mediums? Do you have a recommendation for a good one in the California Bay Area? Leave a comment and let me know.