Twenty-Two Faces. By Judy Byington. Tate Publishing, Oklahoma City, 2012. 978-1620240328. 428 pages. Softcover, $19.95.
Book Review by Douglas Mesner
Twenty-Two Faces by Judy Byington falls within an outdated genre of prurient Satanic Panic supernatural-erotica-sold-as-a-true-story pulp novels which enjoyed a certain popularity throughout the 80s and 90s. It tells the story of one Jenny Hill, a former prostitute and drug abuser who, upon submitting herself to psychiatric attention, learned that she had Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) (now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID]). Surely, this diagnosis must have come as quite a relief, as it promised that Hill herself need not bear any of the responsibility for her own actions, which the book describes as, at times, being outright psychopathic. The book makes quite clear that every foul thing Hill ever did -- from slashing her sister with a razor blade out of mere curiosity of the consequences, to allowing herself to be pimped by a husband she met whilst working with sex offenders (he was one) -- was actually the mischievous doings of personalities that resided within her, and without her own conscious awareness. Unfortunately, this ultimate absolution came at a predictable cost: in accepting the MPD/DID diagnosis, Hill would also have to necessarily accept that she was harboring “repressed memories” of traumas which she would need to recall in the course of reintegrating her fractured mind. Fortunately for Hill, however, nobody required of her that the heartbreaking story of traumatic abuse that she would “recall” need make any sense, and the fact that it doesn’t seems to have completely escaped her biographer, Judy Byington.