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Spectral Evidence: The Ramona Case: Incest, Memory, and Truth on Trial in Napa Valley Hardcover – May 26, 1997

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Editorial Reviews Review

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

From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (May 26, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395718228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395718223
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,477,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 7, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first learned of this fine volume--named from an expression born during the Salem witch trials--while at a skeptic's meeting the keynote speaker for which had gone through a bogus "therapy" which ended her marriage and nearly her life. The person who told me of the book pointed out that the book's alleged victim, the one who'd "recovered" her memories--one of the turns for the worst of the victim culture--is now a therapist. Why does that not surprise me?
The author, Moira Johnston, did a remarkable job of examining all dimensions of the incident. In fact, her closing chapter lists how she proceeded with the investigation. While reading the text, I felt she was clearly in favor of the alleged culprit, Gary Romano, whose life was forever changed, and nearly destroyed, by the incident. But after reading the technique Johnston employed, I had to reconsider. The case which Mr. Romano had filed against the therapists and the institutions in which the memories were "recovered" provided enough evidence to convince a jury that there had been malpractice, i.e., there was not enough evidence to convince the jury that Romano had raped his daughter Holly, the future therapist--repeatedly according to her between the time she was a toddler until she was about 16--despite her therapists' encouraging her to believe that he had. So the author at best took the same stand as the jury.
The story was not atypical of recovered memory cases. A young woman suffering from her own problems, in this case bulimia, went to a therapist. Johnston provides a thorough background by showing that of the 46,000 of the type of therapist Holly was seeing, half of them were in California. (The requirements expected of that sort of therapist were comical at that time too!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 1, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Destined to be a "classic" of all the books on the memory wars. The author masterfully recounts a tragic case of alleged incest by a father against his daughter, and captivates and educates the reader. This book excellently reounts the family's background, the therapy and the confrontation, the science and the theories and counter-theories involved, and the court case and its aftermath. This is a must read for anyone interested in false and recovered memories, and the legal cases spawned by the same.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By on July 31, 1998
Format: Hardcover
What and how do we really remember? Is memory ever really "the truth"? And why are all these people remembering things that supposedly never happened, yet are willing to destroy their lives in the process of asserting their perception of reality? Although this book has more questions than answers, it is very thought provoking and enlightening.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 7, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Whichever side of the recovered memory debate you
find yourself on, Moira Johnston's book has something to both please and enrage you. Somehow, Johnston has been able to stay fairly objective to the end of the book, addressing the fact that, when memories of child abuse are recovered by adults, *no one* really wins. Johnston has seemingly talked at length with all the major players in the memory wars: the "celebrity survivors", the compassionate clinicians, the skeptical scientists, the driven attorneys, and the friends, neighbors, and colleagues of Gary and Stephanie Ramona. Her sympathies lie with all those who were affected by this landmark case, and she tells both sides admirably.

Whatever you think about recovered memories, read this book. It's got cutting-edge memory science, courtroom drama, and intense family dynamics. I read it in three days, and it was over too soon.
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