Dr. Ward is a Virginia ""hypnoanalyst""; Lia Farrelli (a pseudonym) is a housewife who came to him for treatment after 20 wretched years of physical ailments, medication addictions, and nervous breakdowns. And Lia herself fills in her sad history in the book's first half--which, though often repetitious, over-written, or drearily mundane (in-law problems, etc.), is a grimly miserable account indeed: an unloving, denigrating mother; marriage to stifling, handsome Paul, a rigid Catholic with an over-possessive mama; painful childbirths; gynecological horrors (repeated D & C's until someone finally realized that Lia's womb was full of tumors); diseases that caused facial scars and emaciation; breakdowns, institutionalization, shock therapy, years of pills from a psychiatrist (""I have grown to hate him and all his kind""); proctological problems (""I had not had a normal evacuation for almost one full year""); a brief flirtation with a ""charismatic"" cult; blackouts--and a traumatic, blurrily perceived rape (by a family ""friend""). So all this finally led a desperate, near-suicidal Lia to Dr. Ward's office--and he takes over most of the story from that point on. Under hypnosis, Lia gave revealing answers to word-association tests; following post-hypnotic suggestion, she had dreams and-recorded them for interpretation; her massive religion-based guilts came out, so Dr. Ward countered them with positive suggestions (""Starting today you will know that you are worthy and were created in God's own image""). And, at a climactic session after a few months of weekly ups and downs, Lia remembered one of her mother's meanest moments (rejecting a Valentine's Day card)--and she then became aware of the two other personalities inside her: rageful Ava (the name of Lia's insane aunt, whom her mother likened her to); and a nun (""your way of retreating into the past in order not to feel hurt and abandoned""). Thus, finally, these two alter egos were ""dismissed"" under hypnosis--allowing Lia to start remaking her life: an upbeat ending to a mostly depressing story. Unfortunately, however, the reconstruction of Lia's treatment here has little of Sybil's convincing impact: the nature of the ""altered personalities"" remains sketchy; the revelations under hypnosis don't sufficiently explain Lia's massive illness; and the whole matter of hypnoanalysis raises questions--especially since Dr. Ward's slangy, gung-ho style (exclamation points galore) is less than reassuring. An iffy case history, then, but clearly sincere and occasionally involving in its swing from utter despair to gutsy optimism.
Pub Date: Jan. 11, 1981
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981
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