JENNIFER AND HER SELVES by Gerald Schoenewolf


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 In a dramatized version of one of his earliest cases, psychotherapist Schoenewolf reveals the complicated relationship that developed between himself as an inexperienced therapist and ``Jennifer,'' a beautiful young patient with multiple personality disorder. Schoenewolf admits to ``occasional literary enhancements'' and ``a degree of license in order to heighten the impact'' of his account; this may be an understatement. Liberties have definitely been taken with form--Part III of the story is presented as a diary kept by Jennifer and her alter personalities during the final month of her brief therapy with Schoenewolf--and perhaps with substance, as Schoenewolf insists that as Jennifer's different personalities emerge, ``not only is her personality different, but even the shape of her body and face.'' Jennifer, the core personality, is a suicidal and depressive dancer whose other selves are frightened six-year-old Jenny; angry ten-year- old Tom; promiscuous Jess; hostile, competitive Margaret; mature, confident Mildred; and formal, stiff Mary. Schoenewolf quickly learns how each is a response to a specific traumatic event in Jennifer's life, and in an astonishingly short time encourages them to become part of Jennifer's conscious mind as a first step toward integration. He attributes this amazing outcome to his ``unusually intimate working alliance'' with his patient. As Jennifer moves toward health, however, Schoenewolf finds himself out of his depth, spending days fantasizing about her, even imagining marriage to her, yet finding her an unbearable burden. Ultimately, he recognizes that he lacks the skills and objectivity to continue and refers her to another therapist. Good material for a TV soap opera, perhaps, but suffering from too few details of the therapy, rather textbook-like discussions of multiple personality disorder, and flat, unconvincing recollections of emotions.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1991
ISBN: 1-55611-303-X
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Donald Fine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991