THE MAGIC CASTLE by Carole Smith


Email this review


 A credulity-straining first-person narrative by an adoptive mother who recounts in graphic detail the anguish of raising an extremely dysfunctional boy whom she comes to believe has been the victim of satanic ritual abuse. In 1984, Smith (a pseudonym), identified only as a former English teacher, took in ten-year-old Alex as a foster child to bring in money when her husband, a contractor, was injured and unable to work. The Smiths, who live on a 20-acre farm in Massachusetts and whose own children were grown, soon became attached to the troubled, unpredictable, sometimes violent youngster and two years later began proceedings to adopt him. Young Alex repeatedly experienced flashbacks, going in and out of hypnotic states in which eight other personalities, or alters, would assume control. Through them, Smith gradually learned details of the sexual abuse suffered by Alex as a child. All of Alex's descriptions of sex with adults and animals, mutilating horses, ritual killing of infants, burying babies alive, and other horrendous acts are taken at face value by Smith, who has the vocabulary of a psychotherapist and apparently took extensive notes throughout Alex's adolescence. Alex was in and out of numerous mental institutions and was treated by various therapists, one of whom, Dr. Steven J. Kingsbury, successfully used hypnotism to help Alex control his dissociative states. The measured prose of Kingsbury's afterword on trauma, multiple personality disorder, and hypnosis is a welcome antidote to Smith's emotion-laden memoir. While one's sympathies are initially with this heroic woman tirelessly mothering an extraordinarily difficult child, suspicion grows that one has been seduced into reading a tract on, or rather against, satanism.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-17196-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997