Memoir may not quite be the word to describe this account, which is presented as the work of several personalities, each speaking for him or herself.
The principal narrator, Robert, is the dominant personality, but this was not always so, according to Oxnam, an Asia specialist and business consultant who asserts that for some 30 years, another personality, Bob, was dominant. Memory blackouts, bizarre behaviors and alcoholism led him in 1989 to Dr. Jeffrey Smith, a psychiatrist with some experience with multiple personalities. Oxnam began twice-a-week sessions with the psychiatrist, who in mid-1990 told him that he had multiple personality disorder (MPD, now renamed dissociative identity disorder, or DID) after a session in which an alternate personality, Tommy, an angry adolescent boy, emerged. As their sessions continued, other so-called alters—Young Bob, Robbey, Robert, Witch, Eyes, Lawrence, the Librarian, Baby and Wanda—all trapped inside separate parts of a dark castle, appeared. Labels identify which section of the narrative comes from which voice. Although Oxnam’s childhood memories were initially vague, under therapy he recovered memories of early, ugly abuse. In MPD theory, dissociation is a method of coping with the trauma of such abuse. Through long therapy, Oxnam gradually freed the alters from the castle and achieved partial integration of the personalities. By the end, three of the alters—Bobby, Wanda and Robert—remain separate, but have worked out a “collaborative multiplicity,” with Bobby providing his youthful energy, Wanda her internal incisiveness and outer perceptiveness and Robert his drive. Oxnam weaves into this psychological narrative stories of trials and triumphs from his professional life, which include dealings with Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the first President Bush, and scenes from his marriage to a remarkably understanding woman.
While the fanciful imagery employed by Oxnam may give his story greater impact, it will not authenticate it for skeptics who question either the existence of MPD as a genuine mental disorder or the legitimacy of recovered memories.