Phyllis Alesia Perry's Stigmata is a fascinating book. I love Psychological novels. Stigmata surpassed any novel about a person's mind I have read in the past. The book is splendid. Instead of giving a dry, medical or psychological definition of stigmata the author allows the main character's actions to "show" describe the meaning of the term. Lizzie Dubose is the main character along with the lives of her ancestors who constantly live beside her. Lizzie's ancestors speak through her. The first ancestor is Ayo who becomes Bessie after leaving the shores of Africa. There is Ayo(Bessie), Grace, Sarah, Joy and Lizzie speaking or acting at any given time. I didn't find this confusing. The different characters inside of Lizzie's head made Lizzie more complex and interesting. It seemed as if Lizzie had been chosen as the one in the family to make peace with the past. I think Grace experienced a bit of the pain while trying to make peace with the past.
Being a little bit familiar with my African roots I liked the way Phyllis Alesia Perry took me back in time through a different route. She took me by way of Lizzie's mind. A mind needing or starving to come to grips with the past in order to live in the present. At times Lizzie's journey frightened me as it did her parents and friends. Still, I was magnetized by this girl to woman's life. I also think this is a coming of age story.
I entered so many worlds unfamiliar to me. Lizzie lived in a mental institution for fourteen years or more. Through her life I had a glimpse of what it's like to try and communicate with doctors. I could see the importance of writing a journal when you feel so misunderstood even by the most intelligent people in society.
Most of all I could see the relief it brings to put a "name" to any emotional or physical pain experienced. In Lizzie's life a priest is the one who gives a name to all that she has experienced for years. He used the important tool of listening. At the same time, he gave her the gift of a word, stigmata. Perhaps, no one had ever really listened to Lizzie. After all, if you are labeled as crazy and suicidal people think you can say nothing of importance. While being visible you are really invisible to parents, aunts, doctors and society.
But what Lizzie experiences is very visible. There are the marks on her body. There is the storytelling appliqued quilt and an old diary. There are also visions. I also picked this book because of my love of quilts. Quilts are the fabrics of a past story from a true person's life.
In Stigmata, a question is asked about time. Is time nonlinear or circular? Through reading about Lizzie's life we can draw our personal conclusions. I do know my answer. Now that I am older I see time as circular. I find myself journeying back to my childhood involuntarily. I find myself rethinking choices already made. I have come to believe if time is circular than it is a wonderful teaching tool because what I did yesterday is useful for a better tomorrow.