Monday, December 17, 2012

Book review: The Devil I Know

"It is possible to live in the logical world and the spiritual. The two are not mutually exclusive."
 - Jackie Barrett, "The Devil I Know"

If you plan on reading THE DEVIL I KNOW, you're going to need an open mind. I'm talking wide open, stretched to the max, maybe with something like those metal fasteners they held Alex's eyes open with in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. You'd better be ready for a heavy dose of spirit communication, ritual, astral projection, demons, exorcism and all manner of spiritual manifestations. And that's aside from Ronnie DeFeo's psychosis, which is its own kettle of crazy fish. I consider myself pretty open-minded and even I found a few things tough to swallow.

In the book, psychic medium and spiritualist Jackie Barrett describes both her life experience with the spiritual realm and her interactions with Ronnie "Butch" DeFeo, who asked for her help not only in getting the true story about Amityville out, but in battling the evil that plagues him. The stories are intertwined, jumping back and forth between events in Jackie's life and her communications with DeFeo. Sometimes it was disorienting, other times I saw the connection she was making.

A few times during the book, Barrett expresses the difficulty she herself had accepting and believing DeFeo's claims. Often she would have her daughter simultaneously fact-checking as she spoke to him on the phone. I found myself feeling the same way, not only about DeFeo's story but the book as a whole. By saying that, I don't mean to suggest that I somehow know any better than the author about what she and Ronnie did or did not experience, nor that I disliked what I read. On the contrary, I found the book very engaging and looked forward to seeing how it was all going to wrap up.

Barrett is a wonderful writer and the details (true or not) about the Amityville case that come to light through her interactions with DeFeo are fascinating. What I got out of it, more than anything else, is that while there may have been some supernatural influences, the story is really one about a highly dysfunctional family and the psychological effect it had on their children, especially their eldest son.

If you're more informed about the Amityville case than I am there may not be much here that's new or noteworthy on that topic. Barrett does give readers an intimate look into the mind of a notorious killer and an in-depth description of what she has experienced as someone with extraordinary gifts. As long as you're open to hearing what she has to say, I would recommend picking it up.

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