FIRST PERSON PLURAL by Cameron West

FIRST PERSON PLURAL

My Life as a Multiple

KIRKUS REVIEW

A singular first-person account of the much-debated condition now known as dissociative identity disorder (DID)—formerly termed multiple personality disorder—by a man who professes to have 24 separate personalities, or “alters.” West (a pseudonym) was a successful businessman when he began hearing the voices that led him to a psychologist’s office and eventually to the diagnosis of DID. Although he had no memory of childhood sexual abuse by his mother and grandmother, his alters did, and as his psychologist explains, their existence was his mind’s way of coping with those experiences. Introductory thumbnail sketches of his 24 alters help the reader to keep straight this extensive cast of characters. Most memorable are Clay, an eight-year-old whose untimely appearances put a damper on Wests’ lovemaking, and Switch, another eight-year-old, whose knife attacks on West send him repeatedly to the emergency room. Now a would-be novelist, West exercises his fledgling narrative skills here, not only relating his own strange tale briskly, but adopting an all-seeing eye for scenes where he was not present, e.g., his wife at a DID support meeting or with an admirer whose attentions threaten their marriage. While West’s story is primarily about his bizarre condition and how it changed his life (he sold his Massachusetts home and business and moved to California, earned a Ph.D. in psychology in order to better understand DID, spent time in psychiatric hospitals, and gradually came to accept as true the sexual abuse memories of his alters), it is also the story of a married couple dealing with one partner’s mental breakdown and of how they handled the subject with their young son. The volume is illustrated throughout with pages from West’s journal showing his alters’ childish scrawls and drawings. DID skeptics may view this as an ingenious bit of fantasy; for those who found Sybil or The Three Faces of Eve believable and engrossing, this account will be even more so.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1999
ISBN: 0-7868-6390-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999




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