Girl From The Tree House (Women of Our Time Book #1 ) – Book Review

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Author : Gudrun Frerichs

Publisher : BooksGoSocial

Pub. Date : 30 May 2019

Plot Summary :

For Elizabeth , self is not I , it’s we . From a very early age , Elizabeth has suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder . She doesn’t like her own name and prefers to be referred to as Elise ( the default alter ) – Elizabeth has disappeared long ago and exists only on paper . Then there is Lillie – the hard-headed & quick-thinking 18 year old who refers to herself as the resident crisis-manager of the ” tree- house” , Ama – ” the camp-mother ” & Sky – the wise person of the council – the core alters who are the narrators for Elizabeth ‘s life story as a DID person .

The tree- house is the imaginary ” house ” where Elise’s alters convene and discuss about the tough situations and decide what needs to be done and who is the best person to take over the body at that particular instant . There are almost 50 people camping in the tree-house . We also have Luke –  the ‘ man -of -the-house ‘ , Phoenix – the tribe’s grandfather , Amadeus who will land a few punches before asking any questions  & a bunch of child alters like Mike , Tobias , Maddie . Everybody lives together as a joint family and each one of them ( down to the youngest alter ) has a role to play in the tree-house .

It has taken a long time but the core alter personalities have devised the system of working harmoniously and to play up on each other ‘ s strengths . It has still not become easy with some of the younger alters getting easily triggered but the older ones take care that they won’t hijack the body when they are in one of their moods .

When Horace Reid dies , it looks like freedom for them . But when they are faced with the threat of being institutionalized , the alters jump into action and elope to New Zealand’s South Island to their maternal aunt’s house . But , too late , the tribe discovers that coming to their aunt’s house has triggered some horrendous memories for few alters . When they are accused in a murder , they are on the run again . It looks like the monsters from their past have had them on their radar all the time .

Can they trust Scott – the neighbor who goes out of the way to help them ? Can they actually trust one another ?

My review :

Crime fiction writers have always had a field day with a DID protagonist . They are always in the thick of a web of lies , deceit and conspiracies but completely clueless damsels in distress . In my previous reads , there has always been an understanding therapist who helps them to get to know the other alters ‘ secret and eventually facilitate the alters ‘ integration with the host . But here , the protagonist ‘ s alters seem to be able to look out for Elise ( the default alter ) themselves . They often remind each other about Miss Marple ‘s comments during their therapy sessions with her ( their nickname for their therapist ) but they don’t seem to miss the therapy couch to get to know each other – they have their black book where they write letters / short notices to the others when one of them gets the ‘body-time ‘ . Perhaps Gudrun is showing how normally can a person with DID  can function in a regular scenario . It seems somewhat ideal but not entirely impossible .

Another thing which I had come to understand from my earlier reads is that ” integration of the parts ” means that the person is  cured of DID. A quick research showed that Gudrun might be more honest about the integration subject than several other authors . Lillie observes , ” I don’t know if there exists such a thing as integration . I suspect it’s a myth spread by a bunch of zealous clinicians , who still haven’t paid off their mortgages and need income . “

There is the ‘ mother – figure alter ‘ , ‘ the wise-person-in-the-crowd alter ‘ , ‘the hard-headed & unsentimental alter ‘ , ‘ the lost-little-one child alter ‘ which I identified from my previous read . But its the personality and the little details of the characters that actually make these characters stand out from several others . For example , Casper can speak Finnish & Lizette  French (!!) . Lilly is German while the others are Kiwis (!!!) . These details can come only from somebody who has a deep understanding about  DID .

There are several observations from the alters in the same tune – ” For the first time , someone treated me like a normal woman and not a mental basket case “ ( And that’s a pleasant surprise . I am forever grateful for this huge gesture )

” As soon as you end up with a mental health label , you are a second-class citizen “

All these only indicate the sad state of how mental-illness is still a taboo even today .

It is labelled as a psychological thriller . While it can be psychological ,  as it explores the mind-workings of a DID person , there is too little thriller element in the book .  There is some dark-humor & witticisms  from Lillie , the explaining – DID ‘ s – aspects from Sky , the baffled ‘ help!-I-don’t -understand-what’s-going-on ‘ tone of Elise that this book is , more of an exploration of life as a multiple than a crime novel . It was , however , a riveting read . Highly recommended from me…

Rating : 4 / 5

My thanks to the publisher for the e – ARC in exchange for an honest review . Until the next review then….

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