A sometimes vivid, sometimes vague first-person account of a truly dreadful life and the controversial form of therapy that helped the author come to grips with it. Unlike many therapy patients who have no recollections of childhood abuse until their therapist helps them ``recover'' the memories, Brinson recalls in detail her father's physical abuse of her, her siblings, and her mother. The book is replete with descriptions of the beatings he regularly inflicted on them during her harsh childhood on a South Carolina tobacco farm. The beginnings of her neurotic behavior are apparent in her account of these early tortured years, but as she tells it, her problems didn't fully emerge until she was married and a mother. Brinson depicts herself becoming as abusive as her father had been, spinning so far out of control that she was institutionalized. After countless suicide attempts and years in and out of psychiatric wards, she finally came under the care of Carol Wintermeyer, a clinical psychologist she grew to trust. According to Wintermeyer's preface, Brinson's problems included suicidal- homicidal tendencies, obsessive-compulsive disorder, multiple personality disorder, and neurotic tics and habits. Using hypnotherapy, Wintermeyer took Brinson back to her childhood. In one session, Brinson described hearing her mother shoot and kill her father; the desperate woman then persuaded her daughter to beat her with a belt in order to provide bruises that would mitigate her crime in the eyes of a court. Without offering a conclusion about whether or not this was a recovered memory of an actual event, Brinson makes it the key to understanding and integrating her shattered personality and to accepting herself as a less-than-perfect person. Although the author recounts her childhood with gritty detail, her adult life remains blurry, and what she reveals about her therapy is minimal. Those hoping for insight into the much-disputed practice of eliciting long-buried memories of abuse from psychiatric patients will be disappointed. Decidedly unsatisfactory as a portrait of recovery from mental illness.
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