Book Review/Recommendation: When Rabbit Howls

Here’s another long one.

Trigger warning: Okay, before I say anything more at all about this book, I need to make one thing clear. This book deals with, in no uncertain terms: incest, severe sexual abuse of a child, severe physical abuse of a child, and just outright brutal abuse of a child on all levels. When the step-father in the book is termed “sick”, I’m going to go ahead and warn that he really, really, is. There are things in this book that I honestly had to go back and reread, because at first, I didn’t realize what was actually happening. I sat there thinking, “There’s no way this is what I think it is. There’s no way someone could do this to a child.” Well, he did.  With that said…

When Rabbit Howls

Summary: “Black Katherine is the willful guardian of the children. Sewer Mouth voices rage in a torrent of four-letter words. Twelve is the sensitive, artistic child.

The cover from the 1990, mass market edition.

The cover from the 1990, mass market edition.

Rabbit doesn’t speak, but only howls in pain…

These are some of the personalities that live within Truddi Chase. For her entire life they have protected her from the

memories of unspeakable acts of child abuse and incest that she endured for years. To escape the horror of the violen

t abuse, the two-year-old child “went to sleep”- and created the inner world of “the Troops,” the ninety-two voices that shielded her from the pain, but she never fully knew existed until she established her career, got married, and started a family.

Only now has Truddi Chase unlocked the door to the terrifying crimes of the past.

Like Sybil, this is a spellbinding journey through the fragmented world of multiple personality. But unlike anything you’ve ever read, this unique book has over ninety authors. For all of Truddi Chase’s “Troops” speak out to tell her story. All but one…”

-From the summary of the 1990 mass-market edition.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Author: The Troops for Truddi Chase, with an Introduction and Epilogue by Robert A. Phillips, Jr., Ph.D.

Publisher: Penguin


Comments: Okay, I guess the first thing to get out of the way is my own thoughts on Dissociative Identity Disorder in general.  With that said, yes, I do believe that Dissociative Identity Disorder (it’s still referred to in the book as Multiple Personality Disorder, since they were working on a much older version of the DSM (III) The change occurred with (IV) was released) is a real diagnosis. My personal interest with the disorder is the questions of “how exactly do these personalities emerge? How are the ‘born’, as some of the Troops call it?” There’s also the question of why do some people “split” and some don’t? Some people say it has to do with the creativity of intelligence of the “original” or “first-born”, but can that be tested once the mind has been fragmented by alters?

Okay… so after that. I’ll try not to go off continue going off psych ideas and that kind of thing. DID fascinates me, and so this book really held my attention.

It’s not an easy book to read, I’ll say that much, and I don’t just mean the topic itself or the abuse. Yes, the sections that describe how the stepfather (who is never named) treated Truddi as a child are hard to read just for their content alone, but I’ll come to that. What I mean here is that the book is written by Truddi’s alters, the Troops. It stays consistently in third person, but there are changes in tone, and there are multiple speakers. I had to reread sections more than once to make sure that I was really understanding what was going on.  It gets easier to read as the book goes on, not just because you get used to the style, but also as Truddi and the Troops go through therapy and there is more cohesion among their ranks, which, in turn, seems to bring more cohesion to the story as they tell it.

And I think that’ what made this book so appealing to me. This was not just a story about someone living with DID, it was the story of those alters becoming aware of one another, because often, not only is the original not aware of the alters, but the alters are not always aware of each other. Reading as the alters became aware, and more tolerant of each other, is fascinating.

Some parts of the book are still difficult to understand. The parts about the mind are, to put it lightly, complicated. Even today, we only understand about 10% of how the “average” human mind works. Think about someone with 92 other people living in her head, and then think how easy it would be to make sense of that. In fact, that’s another key element of the book. What is “normal” in reference to the human mind? How can we categorize “normal” or “abnormal” when we know so little about it? Truddi, or the woman that the troops have constructed to take her place, constantly fears that she is insane, because her mind, measured against her husband’s or her daughter’s, is “abnormal.”

The Troops themselves are just as fascinating. However, there are a lot of them introduced throughout the story, though not all 92. I kept a running count as new names appeared. I just kept a note with the names, and something about their functions. Sometimes, when one is named, that one mention is all you’ll get of them. Some like, Mable, the Junkman, and the Recorder are only mentioned, and we’re never really shown them “evidencing” themselves. Others, like the Suicidal Warrior and Sixteen only appear a handful of times. Others are “Front-runners”. They appear several times and often they “speak” for others. Catherine, Twelve, Nails, Ten Four and Mean Joe, among others.

And the names. For instance, there’s Catherine, Black Katherine, Lady Catherine, and Sister Mary Catherine. And yes, they are all separate alters.

The most fascinating of all of the Troops is, without a doubt, Ean. The other Troops seem to respect him as someone that “sits above” the others. They never refer to him by name, and consider using it to be a mistake. He is more often referred to as the Irishman, since he has a noticeable brogue. I won’t go into everything that he’s implied to be, but even after finishing the book, he remains an a huge enigma. At the end of the book, in a letter from the Troops to Dr. Phillips, they mention that, even with all that they have learned from and about one another, even they aren’t sure exactly who or what he is. He seems to be able to direct the Troops as he will, and has a penchant for metaphors and turns of phrase that are almost… musical. He also alludes, quite often to war and battles.

It’s never said in the book, nor have I read it anywhere else, but I personally wonder if, given Ean’s repetitive use of battle metaphors, he was the one that styled the alters as the “Troop Formation,” but I, like I said, there’s no evidence that I know of, one way or another.

Also, someone (Ean, most likely) in the Troops likes Tennyson and Longfellow. Hard not to like someone like that.

The one section that was the most confusing was the last chapter. Again, I won’t go into detail, but the situation, as it’s presented, is ambiguous. In his epilogue, Dr. Phillips (“Stanley”, to the Troops) gives what he believes is the more correct explanation. Ean’s comments towards the end seem to agree with Dr. Phillips statements.

The part I’m not particularly sold on is the bits about the energy levels, at least in the extreme cases. But who knows.

Another thing to note is how the Woman perceives the Troops, when they emerge. The book will say, “Twelve was sitting by the table, talking to Mean Joe. Catherine was painting her fingernails, and Sister Mary Catherine was by the window praying,” or something along those lines. The Troops are perceived as separate, physical people, despite the fact that we know they only inhabit one body. I don’t know if that’s something unique to the Troops, if it’s added for the story to make more “sense”, or if it’s a generality among people with DID, but I do find it interesting, either way.

Overall, I would certainly recommend this book, especially if you have an interest in cognitive and abnormal psychology. But I definitely would recommend it even if you’re not in psychology. It’s an extremely interesting read. However, as I said at the beginning of the post, there are several mentions of violent sexual and physical abuse. The stepfather tormented Truddi in increasingly violent and vicious ways.

I definitely recommend the book, but it certainly should be approached with caution.



The Countdown to NaNo is on

So, between class work, working, reading, and all of the other things I’ve been doing, I haven’t had much time to post anything on here.

Final countdown to NaNo is on. Wasn’t able to go to the regional kickoff party, since I was out of town, but I’m hoping to make several other of the events. I know there are bi-weekly write-ins on the campus, so I’m hoping to make a few of those, too. I’m trying out a new software this year: yWriter. I’ve seen lots of good reviews, and I’m still setting things up, but I like what I’ve seen so far. If I wind up not liking it, I can always go back to using Scrivener.

Haven’t really done anymore work on the novel itself, other than breaking things up into planned scenes and chapters to put into yWriter.

Finished reading Frankenstein for my upper level lit. class. I had actually never read it before, strangely enough. It wasn’t bad, although it’ll probably never be one of my favorite “classics”. It was certainly better than the first two, though since one of those was Paradise Lost, well… “dammed by faint praise” might be appropriate. Next up is Farenheit 451. If there was ever another book that could inspire my loathing on a level equal to Paradise Lost, it’s Farenheit 451. I hate this book. Though I also used to hate 1984, and now it’s a part of my blog’s background.

But, somehow, I don’t expect to love 451 anymore this time around than the first time.

However, I’m also reading another book on the side. It was recommended, oddly enough, by my mother. She read it several years ago, and was fairly surprised that I, a dedicated psychology student, wasn’t aware of it. It’s called When Rabbit Howls, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. I’m about a quarter of the way through it, and it’s one of the most fascinating things that I’ve ever read, especially for something that’s nonfiction. I’ll do a detailed Review/Recommendation when I finish, but, for those that aren’t familiar with it, the book is about a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disroder or MPD). Her alters are known as the Troop Formation, and there are 92 identified alternates (other personalities).

The book is written from the perspective of the Troops, and deals with their awakening awareness of each other. As such, it’s a bit disjointed and can be hard to follow. It also deals with, in no sugarcoated way, about severe sexual and physical abuse of a young child (the abuse being the root cause of the DID), and is occasionally hard to read. However, even with all of that, I know that I’m going to be recommending the book once I finish it.

I also need to finish The Lucifer Effect. I’ve had that on my shelf for over a year now, and haven’t worked on it much.

So there’s how things have been. Good luck to eveyone prepping your NaNo projects! The countdown is on! Now, I have to go and study for a Social Psych exam.



NaNoWriMo 2014 Summary- On the Ashes of Riverside

So the NaNo site has been reset, though I think all of the forum posts from last year are still up. (Does anyone know what’s going on there? Are they going to reset those too?

Anyway, I’ve already updated my author page on the site, and figured that I would go ahead and post the summary here, too.

Riverside State Psychiatric Hospital was once a promising institution. Proudly situated in a rise above the Tennessee river, the hospital was, for a time, a leader in the emerging field of mental health care, boasting the most up-to-date and advanced practices of the time. However, little more than two decades passed before the hospital’s decline began, and allegations of violence, patient abuse, and cruel treatments began to run rampant. In the summer of 1969, the hospital suffered a devastating blow. A fire destroyed the top three floors of the hospital’s main building. Several people suffered injuries, and a six-year-old patient died in the blaze. Though the fire was eventually ruled an accident, suspicions remained and, a year later,

This year's cover image.

This year’s cover image.

Riverside Hospital was closed down.

The hospital sat abandoned for decades. Rumors of ghosts and other strange sightings spread like wildfire.

In the spring of 2011, a private developer purchased the property. Plans were announced to repair and renovate the buildings and turn them into a modern apartment community. Riverside Plaza opened three years later.

Graduate student MacKenna Sheridan, the building’s newest resident, is thrilled to finally be moved into her new apartment.

But the past never stays hidden and Kenna’s excitement fades rapidly. Before long, odd things begin to happen. At first, they’re easily explained away: a flicker in the mirror and quiet whispering in the hallways. But things escalate quickly. The sounds of crying and screaming echo in the halls, the smell of smoke fills the air, and fire alarms sound with no obvious cause.

Unnerved by the increasingly common occurrences, and aware of the building’s troubled history, Kenna tries to shed light on the hospital’s troubled past. However, her search proves difficult; many records are sealed, and those involved have no interest in discussing the past. It seems the hospital wants to keep its secrets. But just how far did someone go to bury those secrets?

Will the hospital’s past finally be put to rest and its true tragedies exposed? Or will its secrets remain hidden, buried forever under the ashes of Riverside

I’m actually really excited this year. I’m hoping that I’ll not only be able to meet the word count goal, but actually finish the story itself, too. With the outline I’ve written, I hope that will happen.

Happy planning to all of this year’s NaNo participants! We’re in this together!



Summarizing a Summary

Otherwise known as my complete inability to summarize.

Seriously. I can’t be the only one who has this problem. One year at a local NaNo meet-up, we were challenged to summaize our stories in two sentences.

Two sentences? Hahahaha- Oh, you were serious…

And then everyone else is sitting there writing away, and I’m just sitting there staring at my pen like ive never seen one before.

My summaries tend to be long. I try not to be wordy and redundant, but I love detailed summaries.  I love vivid descriptions (Flowery language if you want to be mean about it.).

Actually, I’m not sure where I picked that up either. My grandmother, where I picked up a lot of my language, mechanics, etc., did not like using it, and it always seemed to stun her that I did.  Though, like I said, I try not to be really tedious about it. Too vividly or too many details? It’s probably just unnecessary filler.

Two pages of the handwritten version of my outline. Yes, it's color coded.

Two pages of the handwritten version of my outline. Yes, it’s color coded.

Right now, I’ve already done 3 versions (two revisions) of the summary for this November’s project. I think I’m finally happy with it, but it’s still so LONG. Seriously. Of course, my “outline” is about 22 printed pages, but that was intentional.

I think my problem is that I don’t want anyone who reads my outline to have too many questions, at least questions other than, “oh, what’s going to happen? I want to read this.” I don’t make the mistake of telling everything that happens, that’s what the story is for, but I struggle with how much is enough. “Well, if I say this about this, will people understand what I’m talking about? Should I try to include a tiny bit of backstory about it?” And that’s where I create problems for myself.

Trying to figure out how to fix this is an ongoing thing for me. Finally, what I did this time was print out a copy if the original summary and just go through and slash through things. Words, phrases, and whole sentences got cut. However I did actually keep the revised, longer version. That one will go up on the Nano site once it resets and will become my “official” summary for the time being. The shorter will be posted on here on the side bar, underneath the cover. I’ll probably also include both in a post, or something. I’m kind of proud of the longer one.