Gary and Stephanie Ramona were part of a fairly typical, affluent Napa Valley family when Holly, the eldest of their three daughters, "remembered" her father raping her. Though the Ramona family was far from cohesive, Holly's accusations destroyed whatever glue had held them together. The lines were drawn clearly: the women of the family, Stephanie and her three daughters, shut Gary out swiftly and surely. Hoping to win his children back, he fought back the only way he knew how. The lawsuit he brought against Holly's therapist, whom he believed planted Holly's disturbing memories, set a precedent, and it would inevitably affect both the counseling profession and this gentrified community the Ramonas called home.
Spectral Evidence tells the story of a modern-day witch trial, a sad and disturbing battle in which nobody wins. This harrowing account of sheltered elite lives suddenly thrust into a national spotlight raises more questions than it answers. Johnston's approach to the subject is evenhanded: there are no true villains, nor are there heroes. The story is riveting, and Johnston is fair yet passionate. --Lisa Higgins
In 1994, Gary Ramona became the first nonpatient allowed to sue psychotherapists, alleging damage to himself resulting from negligent treatment of his daughter. With emotions running high on both sides of the recovered-memory debate, this was a landmark event, impacting the counseling profession as well as other court cases. Investigative journalist Johnston centers the story of the complicated legal battle following Holly Ramona's accusation of childhood sexual abuse by her father within an exploration of the larger social climate and the latest developments in memory-related scientific research. Johnston crafts a compelling narrative from interviews with family, neighbors, jurors, and scientists, personal observations of the trial, and descriptions from court transcripts and depositions. All sides of the story are presented, revealing the complexities of a situation that pits father against daughter, major insurance money against a single individual, and the experience of clinicians against laboratory research. Asserting her own view without being pedantic, Johnston is meticulous in identifying her sources. Grace Fill