Web of Angels

Web of AngelsI 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.

If you liked Web of Angels, we have other books written by the same author that you may be interested in reading:
The River Midnight (F N282r)
The Singing Fire (F N282s)

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:

Discussion Questions
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:

Interesting Tidbit:
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

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10 Responses to Web of Angels

  1. Jeannette Bartha says:

    The America Psychiatric Association changed Multiple Personality Disorder to Dissociative Identity Disorder following the many lawsuits brought against psychotherapists for medical malpractice int he mid 1990s. Multiple personalities don’t exist. Glad you found the DID nonsense. http://www.mentalhealthmatters2.wordpress.com

    • Melissa says:

      I hope you are saying that DID does exist and that it makes better sense than “Multiple Personality Disorder”. I think DID is out there and just needs to be understood more—if you look at how it is caused, it does make sense. It certainly sounds better to say that the person with this condition just has a different outlook of the world by creating a character for certain situations. The mind is a very mysterious organ which we are only beginning to understand. Did you read the book?

  2. Jeannette Bartha says:

    Melissa, No. I am saying that there is no such phenomenon as multiple personalities or Dissociative Identity Disorder. It is a social construct contained within western cultures. Yes, I’ve read these books, one of the author’s wrote me into her text. This is a very dangerous form of psychotherapy – known to cause grave harm to patients and to rip families to shreds on scant evidence or only “memories” of events that probably or may have happened. Please, do more reading before accepting the notion of the existence of multiple personalities. Best. http://www.mentalhealthmatters2.wordpress.com

    • Melissa says:

      Well, this would definitely be something to talk about concerning this book. Since I am a librarian, however, I am a stickler for reliable information. I researched if in fact this condition exists on authoritative sites, and I am very surprised to say that they mention DID as very real. The National Library of Medicine and Mayo Clinic are two sources that I would depend my life on to get medical information and nowhere do these two places mention that DID is just a made up phenomenon. I will not read any books that have no back-up of a reliable hospital or trusted doctor. This book is fiction that just opens up the topic of DID and it is why I shared a link to a medical site to give people more information that explains the condition. I appreciate your comments. I am curious to know where you are getting your information from?

      • Jeannette Bartha says:

        Hi Melissa, this is a recent meta analysis of DID for the past decade


  3. Jeannette Bartha says:

    Creating Hysteria: Women and Multiple Personality Disorder [Paperback]
    Joan Acocella

  4. Jeannette Bartha says:

    Dineen, Tana, Dr., Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry is Doing to People. 2000, 3rd. Ed.

  5. Jeannette Bartha says:

    McHugh, Paul R. M.D., Try to Remember: Psychiatry’s Clash over Meaning, Memory, and Mind. 2008.

  6. Jeannette Bartha says:

    This is a very well researched history of MPD/DID. Resources galore. I don’t know how to send this all in one post. Start with Piper – from here you can go in many directions.

    Piper, August, Jr., M.D., 1997. Hoax & Reality: The Bizarre World of Multiple Personality Disorder.

  7. Melissa says:

    Thanks for these. I will not dismiss your ideas either, however, because as has already been proven in the science world, sometimes the medical community can be wrong or be wrong at diagnosing. It can take some time before the truth comes out. A huge and more popular example of this is when women would be going through PMS or menopause. I believe there was a time that women were wrongly diagnosed as having mental problems and needed to be on meds, even though PMS and menopause have depression as one of the many symptoms. I also happen to know that one of my friends was wrongly diagnosed and given medication that essentially made her like a person who could barely talk—it was frightening to see how much power the doctors had, when they REALLY didn’t have any idea what she was going through. She was kind of like their guinea pig. I suffered for her when I saw how much was sucked out of her life at the time. Thank God they fixed the problem. Mental issues and women will always be at the forefront of society. We should change that.

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