Did you ever see a movie called The Three Faces of Eve? . . . Have you ever read a book called Sybil?"" Yes, it's...



Did you ever see a movie called The Three Faces of Eve? . . . Have you ever read a book called Sybil?"" Yes, it's multiple-personality time again--here in a hard-working but unconvincing version that oddly combines the drawbacks of fictionalization (sentimentality, sensationalism, contrived neatness) with the heavy-going jargon of some recent clinical data and techniques (some of which sound awfully dubious). The narrator is breezy Derry--the only one of Sally Porter's personalities who's aware of the others. And Manhattan divorcee Sally herself has only just started to realize that something's really wrong: she loses time, wakes up in bizarre situations, etc. So Sally goes to ""eclectic"" shrink Dr. Roger Ash--who uses sodium amytal and hypnosis to meet the personalities (intellectual Nola, sexy dancer Bella, Derry, dangerously hostile Jinx) and uncover some of the underlying childhood traumas: desertion by Sally's father, molestation by stepfather. Dr. A., who has his own trauma (a wife who committed suicide), determines to cure distressed Sally (""I'm a multiple personality. I'm a freak. I want to die!"")--by merging the personalities one by one. . .via group therapy: ""She would face the nightmare people who were tearing her life apart, and meeting them all face to face would either make her well or it would kill her."" This painful (and unpersuasive) process is complicated by waitress Sally's affairs with two absurdly easygoing restaurateurs (""Todd's in love with Nola, but he mistook me for her. Eliot's crazy about Bella, but he proposed to Sally""). But after an inspirational visit from the Inner Self Helper (""she remembered reading an article by a psychiatrist in California who had described how something like this existed in most multiple personalities""), Nola is the first to say ""I ACCEPT FUSION."" And so it goes--with a group attempt at curing Sally's frigidity (""Bella stroked Sally's breasts. . . . Then Jinx picked up the vibrator and rammed it in""), more childhood revelations (Sally was sadistically tricked into killing her kitten), and fusion by Bella and Derry. But Jinx, who tries to kill Dr. A. when he and Sally make love, remains un-fusionable. . . until she remembers molestation by Grandpa and ""the dawn of human consciousness"": ""one universal Mind. . . all minds interpenetrated."" A little Freud, a little Jung, a lot of lecturing, considerable mush--but not even a fraction of the real-thing fascination and pathos of Eve or Sybil.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980