I wish I could grant this novel a five-star rating. Though spoiled by vulgar language and an explicit sex scene, Sounds Like Crazy is one of the most original and well-executed novels I’ve ever read.
Holly Miller, a thirty-year-old waitress, shares her life with The Committee, five inner personalities born of traumatic childhood incidents. The dominant one, Betty Jane, speaks through her with a Southern accent so beguiling that a producer hires Holly to do voiceovers for a TV cartoon series. Meanwhile, Holly battles with Betty Jane for control of her fractured relationships with her parents, her sister Sarah, and her boyfriend Peter.
Holly’s other personalities are Ruffles, an obese woman addicted to potato chips; Sarge, a military character; the Boy, a faceless child in sneakers; and the Silent One, a guru-like prayer figure. As the narrator acknowledges, her plight is reminiscent of Sybil, the famous biography of a woman who suffered from a similar disorder.
One of the defining symptoms of Holly’s illness emerges in a comical scene in which she argues with Betty Jane while trying to wait on restaurant customers and negotiate with TV executives. Behind the farcical setting is a dark past which psychiatrist Milton Lawler tries to bring to the surface of Holly’s mind.
Mahaffey’s deft narration leads us to a deep appreciation of how Holly’s inner family acts as both strength and torment to her. They are so entrenched in her psyche that nothing less than a thorough probe into their origin can make Holly a whole person.
Despite the vulgarity that limits my rating to four stars, the story has a spiritual theme that makes for worthwhile reading. I will always remember Holly’s beautifully crafted inner family and the hopeful slogan that “God is whatever we need him to be.”