NIGHTMARE: Uncovering the 56 Strange Personalities of Nancy Lynn Gooch by Emily & Nancy Gooch with Lucy Freeman Peterson

NIGHTMARE: Uncovering the 56 Strange Personalities of Nancy Lynn Gooch

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Here, psychology writer Freeman (The Story of Anna O., 1972; Who Is Sylvia?, 1979; Guilt, 1986; etc.) recounts--from the viewpoint of California high-school teacher Peterson--the startling tale of Peterson's healing of Nancy Lynn Gooch, a teen-age multiple personality. Peterson's involvement began one day in 1973 when 15-year-old Nancy bolted from Peterson's creative-writing class. Peterson followed and for two hours comforted the gift out of a paranoid episode. From this kindness grew a bond that deepened until, two years later, Peterson learned that the drug-dependent, suicidal Nancy suffered from multiple-personality syndrome--a revelation that occurred when Peterson, invited to the home of Nancy's therapist/foster parents, was introduced to ""Sarah"": ""It was Nancy I saw but the voice was not Nancy's. . .Her posture was vastly different, she held her head proudly, sat in a poised manner, devoid of the fear and insecurity of the Nancy I knew."" In time, other personalities--each created during some critical moment of Nancy's life--revealed themselves to Peterson: Jennifer and her twin, John, created during a rape; Sherry, a tough-talking whore; Carmen, a catatonic child; etc. Initially aiming less for a ""fusion"" of Nancy than for a healing of the emotional scars borne by each personality, through steady love Peterson won the trust of the personalities--a trust which itself led, despite numerous setbacks, to a fusion that culminated first in the appearance of Andria (Nancy's prototypical alternate personality) and then in a final revelation of the trauma that created Andria: childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a sadistic babysitter. Too simplistic--there's little inquiry here into the nature of the self--to compare favorably with Sybil or The Three Faces of Eve; but Freeman handles her complex material with skill and taste, judiciously salting her own occasionally flat narration with excerpts from Nancy's letters and diaries and delivering an overall intriguing sturdy account.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 1987
Publisher: Richardson & Steirman--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40 St., New York, NY 10016)