All of Us by AF Carter reminded me why I studied psychology as an undergraduate. It reminded me of my fascination with the human mind, with sanity and insanity (as opposed to mental illness!). Not to mention my early interest in multiple personality disorder (ie. dissociative identity disorder). I blame reading / watching Sybil (the book by Flora Rheta Schreiber, film featuring Sally Field) in my teens.
All of Us
by A.F. Carter
Published by Mysterious Press
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Though legally she is Carolyn Grand, in practice she is Martha, a homemaker who cooks and cleans for her "family," Victoria, a put-together people person, Serena, a free spirit, Kirk, a heterosexual man, Eleni, a promiscuous risk-taker, and Tina, a manifestation of what is left of Carolyn after years of childhood sexual abuse.
As they jockey for control of their body, all the personalities also work together to avoid being committed to a psychiatric facility. But Carolyn's tenuous normal is shattered when Hank Grand, the man who abused her and leased her out to pedophiles, is released from prison. Soon he begins stalking her, bringing back painful memories for all of the personalities.
When Hank is murdered in a seedy hotel room, Carolyn is immediately a prime suspect. But the man has other shady dealings, and the burden of proof weighs heavy on the police--especially when, propelled by demons of his own, one of the detectives assigned to the case finds his way into Carolyn's very solitary life.
The police and the reader are left wondering: are any of Carolyn's personalities capable of murder? A deeply suspenseful novel, with a truly unique cast of characters.
This book unfolds through the eyes of six protagonists. All of whom share the one body (that of Carolyn Grand, who no longer exists as a character/entity/person).
I know I’ve read quite a few books about people with MPD / DID (or those faking it like the lead in William Diehl’s Primal Fear). But I can’t remember instances where we’re so clearly put into the mind of the personalities and given such a good description of their awareness (or not) of each other. And I was intrigued by the fact that some share memories and how that translates into the personalities sharing skills or abilities.
So, this book has a huge amount of potential. And though I really enjoyed it, I couldn’t help thinking there were a few things missing.
After discovering the horrors of ‘Carolyn’s’ childhood I went searching in case this was a the second book in a series. (TW) There’s very brief reference to the abuse she suffers at the hands of her father (and friends), and then foster parents, but no specific detail on the impact on her. Ironically child pornography and sexual abuse is not something we usually want to read about but I felt some more context would have been good as it would have allowed us to understand our characters’ nascency.
In addition, the fact that many of the personalities we meet didn’t appear until later (when she was in her mid-late 20s) made me wonder what happened before that; and if there were other triggers for their creation. There’s reference to a psychologist who worked with the personalities (with some success) previously and unified some but no information as to why they stopped working together or what happened.
Of course the fact this intrigues me so is evidence that I was truly hooked by our characters and invested in their stories.
We meet ‘Carolyn’s’ current therapist after the book opens. I had high hopes for him and think I assumed we’d see a study of the personalities and their rebellion against being ‘killed off’. Their fight for existence would have interested me, but of course this is more of a thriller – a murder mystery.
This book had tremendous potential but I think it tries to do too much. It covers some very complex subjects, which are fascinating and a lot to process, but then throws a whodunnit AND bit of extra intrigue in on top. There were also a lot of holes. It was actually a very short novel so perhaps it’s been edited to an inch of its life.
I probably would have liked Carolyn’s backstory (childhood, adolescence and young adulthood) delivered in a dual timeline. That way there could have been more focus on the personalities themselves—how they appeared and their purpose—which felt a bit light-on. Again, of course though it’s an interesting study into DID, this isn’t the aim of the book.
So, although I’ve moaned a little about what I ‘would have liked more of’ I still very much enjoyed this book.
All of Us by AF Carter was published Grove Atlantic and available now in hard cover.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.