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Submitted Literature

The Good Patient

By Kristen Waterfield Duisberg


Duisberg’s novel is not only ambitious but examines a common but little fictionalised theme – Borderline Personality Disorder.  The disorder is, crucially, not names as such in the novel, leading to questions of diagnostic usefulness.  Furthermore, Duisberg narrates the experiences of Darien, the lead female character, with such sensitivity that her difficult behaviours – including deliberate self harm, risk-taking and manipulation of her partner – become understandable rather than inducing the therapeutic nihilism that is too often seen clinically.  The novel also demonstrates Darien’s own lack of insight into her actions, and the benefits of a skilled therapist in managing and successfully treating her life-destroying psychological disorder.

Key Themes:

  • Personality
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Revealing Reads
  • Self-Injury

Significant Quotes / Pages

8 – “After all, I never mean to hurt myself, either.  My injuries usually evolve from a minor bump or bruise that I nag into a major medical issue.  I guess I always thought it was okay to hurt myself because if something really horrible came out of it – an amputation, say, or something fatal – I could blame the original, unintended wound: I didn’t do it to myself; it just happened to me.  Years ago, when we used to talk about this stuff, Robert told me he would never forgive me if I killed myself, and you wouldn’t think that was the kind of statement that allowed for wiggle room, but I suppose if anything could provide it,  unintended issues might just be the ticket.  But it’s no longer a negotiable topic – it hasn’t been for years; bad me, to have bought it up – and so I sit silent and studious, waiting for Dr Lindholm, and Robert sits locked behind his angry arms”

11 – “ ‘Why do I think I’m here?” After five doctors, I have the first visit procedure down and can go through the routine on autopilot, laying out the relevant data points like setting the table for a five-course meal.  Anorexia at age ten, bulimia at twelve, alcoholism and sexual promiscuity with the onset of puberty; lying, nightmares, and self-mutilation for as long as I can remember.  Everything from the knife rest to the finger bowl.  ‘I know why I’m here.  I’m here because I broke my hand, and because that’s really just emblematic of a whole host of other things that are wrong with me, or that at least have been wrong with me in the past.’  I throw the last out there, eager for her to ask what those other things might be.  Starving, puking, binge drinking, sluttiness, pathological lying – did I mention those before?  I don’t mind talking about them.

Dr Lindholm doesn’t bite”



Reference: Kristen Waterfield, Duisberg. 2003. The Good Patient. New York: St Martin’s Press, 2003


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Friday 20th March 2009