LEONORA by Richard D'Ambrosio


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D'Ambrosio is a psychoanalyst who works with ""abused and damaged girls, nearly all of them from poor neighborhoods,"" and he is very conscious of being a man with a mission. Leonora was one patient to whom he was inexplicably drawn, but one suspects that the spectacular circumstances surrounding Leonora's schizophrenia have something to do with it. Through hypnotherapy, D'Ambrosio learns that Leonora, who was raised in an Italian neighborhood in New York, was victimized by a mother who performed weird incantations to the devil and symbolically ""killed"" her daughter through voodoo. After six-year-old Leonora is raped by her mother's brother (perhaps sent to carry out her mother's incestuous fantasies), he falls on his knife and is killed. Mom blames Leonora, and when she dies in Leonora's eleventh year, Leonora refuses to believe it. She hallucinates that her mother is a witch who is following her and ordaining her death--hence several suicide attempts. Pregnant at 16 by a man who uses her as a doormat, Leonora tries suicide again--enter D'Ambrosio on a charger, battling indifferent physicians and supercool boyfriends. All the while D'Ambrosio muses to himself about how nobody cares about these kids, and even gives himself a sound talking-to about statistics (""Seventy-five percent of adolescent suicide attempters. . . are girls""). Despite extensive hammering on the head, the book manages to make a point here and there. But it fails to communicate any sense of Leonora's distinctiveness or human value. She elicits the kind of sympathy normally reserved for wounded pets, and as such one wonders whether she hasn't been used yet again.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1978
Publisher: McGraw-Hill