I have heard of Multiple Personality Disorder but I have never heard about its new name, DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) until I read this novel. It is different from schizophrenia, yet just as frustrating. The book is more than someone having this condition, however. There are disturbing scenes and moments that make you shake your head and wonder at how people can do horrific things to their own children. There are dark issues that can cause you to feel anger but also moments when you are given insight into how someone with DID would be thinking.
The story opens up with a teenager (Cathy) finding her older sister dead on the floor in her bedroom, 9 months pregnant and with a self-inflicted gun shot to the head. Just down the block, we are introduced to Sharon Lewis, who has DID but is also a mother of three children. There is a connection between Cathy and Sharon that is not so obvious at first but then reveals itself as the plot moves on.
Before that happens, though, Sharon gets to familiarize herself with Cathy because the young girl has become somewhat of a girlfriend to Josh (Sharon’s teen son). The death in the neighborhood is morbid news that spreads like wildfire in the community and somehow, Cathy’s parents become the “victims” as they try to raise awareness about the tragedies of suicide among teenagers and encourage everyone to help out their cause known as The Committee for Youth. Eventually, we find out who the real victims are, as Cathy’s niece survived the suicide attempt but is within harm’s reach from her grandparents (just as Cathy herself is).
No one knows the dark reality of what goes on in Cathy’s house, until Sharon sees a side of Cathy that only she can relate to. It is through this realization that Sharon becomes more accepting of her many personalities (Lyssa, Alec, Ally and Callisto) and reveals her condition to her husband, Dan. Indeed, she feels she cannot communicate as freely with him as she does when she goes to an online DID forum, where others are experiencing the same tribulations. Dan does not give up on his wife, however, and agrees to accompany her to therapy—making her see that he loves her and all her baggage.
You need to have a stomach to get through this novel but if you can finish it without too much trauma, there are many things that can be discussed within a group. What did you feel after reading it? Do you think issue driven stories are better for book clubs, or do you prefer happier tales?
If you are a member of the library, we currently have this title in two formats (which may or may not change in the future):
-Hard copy (F N282w)
Please consult the catalog regularly for updates of formats.
To read reviews on Web of Angels, please click on the links below.
From The National Post:
From The Winnipeg Review:
For information about Lilian Nattel, click below:
These following questions may be something you would like to start thinking about concerning the story:
-The novel steadily builds to a suspenseful conclusion, but at its heart Web of Angels is a realistic depiction of a family and its place in the community. How does the author strike a balance between the dramatic and suspenseful aspects of the story?
-What does the Overseer represent to Sharon and the other alters?
For the rest of the questions, please click on the link below to access them:
As I mentioned before, I had heard about Multiple Personality Disorder, but an interesting thing I never knew was how it can be caused. Apparently (as we see in the book), it can develop as a result of a severely traumatic early childhood experience that persists throughout that child’s life (such as sexual, physical or emotional abuse). DID is seen as a coping mechanism, where the person who is diagnosed with it, decides they will remove themselves from a situation by becoming completely someone else in their mind. These characters or personalities can be of another age, sex, race and will often even have their own names which are different from the person creating them. For some, this condition’s existence is debatable but it has been proven in the medical community. For more details and information on DID, please consult WebMD’s website:
This book reminded me of …
Many aspects of this novel called to mind several other titles (as usual). One of the books I thought about was Still Alice, by Lisa Genova because of how we are able to read the character’s minds in both stories. We are living Alice’s and Sharon’s true thoughts as they are happening. The other book I thought about was The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, by Elizabeth Stuckey-French, since there are various family issues in that story too. Then I thought about the disturbing aspect of child pornography being rampant online, which made me think about A Walk Across the Sun, by Corban Addison. Each novel focuses on how the sex industry brings in so much money because of an audience that will pay to see “young” flesh in pornographic settings. The last title that I was reminded of was The Virgin Cure, by Ami McKay because in it, there is the older woman trying to “save” the younger lady who is in distress and literally in harm’s way—just as Cathy and her niece are in Web of Angels.
Favorite quote from book:
“His third wife, Yvonne, wearing ropes of gold chain, refilled his glass with red wine. Her surface was lacquered with sprays and patted with powders, her blouse a stiff satin, her skirt an overturned bowl. Her children were all teenagers, diagnosed with ADHD and various other letters, for which prescriptions had been provided. She herself had a fabulous prescription, which didn’t prohibit drinking and didn’t make her fat. In fact quite the opposite. She had no appetite.” (p. 127)
Most traumatic moment in the story:
We start to understand why Sharon fights her demons of the past with her DID when we are given a glimpse of what she actually went through as a child. The scene where she is forced to do everything the grown-ups tell her (or they will kill the budgie and harm the baby) is the cruelest point in the book for me. (p. 265-279)
Next month’s title:
Love Anthony by Lisa Genova