AWRW Way Back Wednesday Book Meme: Sybil, by Flora Rheta Schreiber

Way Back Wednesday is a Book Meme created by A Well Read Woman with the aim to write mini book reviews on books read in the past, that left a lasting impression.

You know what kind of books I am talking about… The ones that you have read multiple times, and they still bring you nostalgia. Books like these are the reason you enjoy reading.

So grab that old-dusty-yet-loved-book off the shelf, glance it over, write a mini review, and join in with me on Wednesdays! EVERYONE is welcome to participate.


1.) Discuss a book you read in the past that left an impression on you. You can write a condewaybackwednesdaynsed review if you prefer.

2.) Tag your post as “Way Back Wednesday” and include this button:

3.) Link back to my blog, and this page.

4.) Include instructions, (copy & paste everything above), for others to participate. 🙂

This Way Back Wednesday post is dedicated to the non-fiction novel Sybil: The Classic True Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Personalities, by  Flora Rheta Schreiber.


Here is the unbelievable yet true story of Sybil Dorsett, a survivor of terrible childhood abuse who as an adult was a victim of sudden and mysterious blackouts. What happened during those blackouts has made Sybil’s experience one of the most famous psychological cases in the world.

Mass Market Paperback, 460 pages
Published May 25th 1989 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1973)
Genre: Psychology, Social Issues, Non-Fiction, Mental Health, Memoir

“Isolated, she managed somehow to feel free—albeit with a freedom that made her want to smash a hole in the very center of the universe.”

Way back in the day, my then-boyfriend, now-husband, was very smart… He bought me books, and lots of them, as gifts. Sybil was one of those gifts. I can remember that moment perfectly. I was so excited, I ran ahead of him in the bookstore, found a store clerk who located this book for me, and before we finished browsing, he bought it for me. ❤ I sat down in one of the aisles, on the floor… like a psycho, and began to read the book as he browsed the shelves. This book holds so much nostalgia for me, it is perfect for a Way Back Wednesday post!

Like my post last Wednesday, on A Child Called ItSybil has subject matter that is equally controversial. Perhaps that’s why it stirs my emotions so much.

Again, like A Child Called It, some people believe that this woman is a fraud, and or that she was a victim to a deranged therapist, who convinced her that she had multiple personality disorder, now known as dissociate identity disorder.

There are mental health professionals who will tell you that dissociate identity disorder doesn’t exist, and others who disagree. I majored in human services in college, and as part of my training to become a mental health counselor, met a woman who claimed she had over 100 different personalities… A good 20 presented to me within the hour.

It. Was. Riveting.

Was this woman telling the truth? I do not know. I will tell you, some of the mental health professionals who sat in were less than respectful to this woman; smirking and shaking their heads as she ‘switched’ personalities. I, on the other hand, kept an open mind. I would hate to doubt someone who is truly suffering from mental illness. Even if she is a fraud, she deserved respect.

So back on the subject of Sybil; Was she a fraud? I do not know. Some of her tales of abuse did seem a bit extreme. One such story Sybil told was of her mother hanging her upside down, catheterizing her, and filling her bladder with water till her stomach hurt so bad she thought she would explode.

That seems a bit far fetched, if even possible.

Adult women are hard enough to catheterize, by trained nurses, mind you… never mind a tiny baby girl, by a person who is insane and had absolutely no clinical training.

“It all made sense — terrible sense. The panic she had experienced in the warehouse district because of not knowing what had happened had been superseded at the newsstand by the even greater panic of partial knowledge. And now the torment of partly knowing had yielded to the infinitely greater terror of knowing precisely.”

Sybil is a book about how an abused child grew up to become a severely mentally ill woman, who had odd coping skills, mainly switching personalities and blacking out for weeks, sometimes months at a time. It is a book that psychology students, and those interested in social issues can devour, and make up their own minds of the validity of what is in between the pages. Me, well, I’m undecided. But I do know, that I absolutely loved this book.

Purchase Sybil on Amazon

About the Author:

Flora Rheta Schreiber (April 24, 1918 – November 3, 1988), an American journalist, was the author of the 1973 bestseller Sybil, the story of a woman (identified years later as Shirley Ardell Mason) who suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder. –Goodreads


6 thoughts on “AWRW Way Back Wednesday Book Meme: Sybil, by Flora Rheta Schreiber

      • It’s been awhile since that ‘refutation’ came out. I read the debate about it and remember that neither side (pro or con d.i.d) where convinced from their positions by this ‘refuation’. I live with my wife who has d.i.d. and there is NO WAY she could con me 24/7 with the 7 different girls who are now part of my life.

        April, I’m glad you could enjoy the original book. Don’t let the ‘refutation’ take that from you as nearly everyone who has d.i.d. constantly says ‘this isn’t real.’ It’s just part of the disorder: a refusal to believe the evil that people commit against helpless children. There’s a lot more scientific proof for the disorder than the deniers will admit.


        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Sam,
          Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I still love the book, despite the refutations. I think D.I.D. is fascinating, and the woman I met who claimed she had 100 personalities was amazing to watch. She mentioned how it was impossible to go grocery shopping, etc because all the different personalities wanted different things and it would take all day to purchase a regular, weekly grocery order.
          I suppose if a disorder like schizophrenia is believable (for example) where a patient hallucinates, etc, then it isn’t too hard to believe that someone might believe they are someone else. I would love to see more research done.
          I’m not sure about “Sybil” though. BUT, it did shed a lot of light on D.I.D., so that alone made the book A GOOD THING.
          Thanks Sam. Take care of that wife of yours! 🙂 and yourself!


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