A young psychiatrist risks her career to help a young woman with an atypical case of dissociative identity disorder.
Dr. Kimberly Patterson is making the best of her stint at Alaska’s Jarvis Regional Hospital, one of the few institutions that would hire her once her residency in San Diego ended badly because she skirted too many of the hospital’s rules. She’s bought some warm clothes, gotten a few cooking necessities for her kitchen, and even started a nice—although also off-limits—relationship with Kyle Berman, head of the hospital’s psychiatric residents and technically her boss. Meeting Scarlett Hascall, however, changes all that. Although still in her late teens, Scarlett’s been in the system for ages, with diagnoses ranging from bipolar disorder to Type 1 mania. But the symptoms Scarlett manifests—abrupt changes of affect, a sense of losing time, violent acts she can’t remember committing—strike Kim as characteristic of dissociative identity disorder, in which the ego fragments into several distinct personalities, all of whom inhabit the same body. What’s distinctive, and disturbing, in this case is that the identities who inhabit Scarlett aren’t the protective alter egos typical of DID. Instead, they all seem to be real people—people who died or went missing in and around Jarvis. To help Scarlett, Kimberly strays further and further from accepted psychiatric techniques, placing her own career as well as her patient’s life in jeopardy.
Somehow, Stolberg makes this bizarre twist on an improbable condition believable and even compelling, as readers root against reason for her heroine to be right and everyone else to be wrong.