By Steve Becker, LCSW
In Love Fraud: How marriage to a sociopath fulfilled my spiritual plan, Donna Andersen has written the most compelling nonfiction account of a relationship with a sociopath I’ve ever come across.
In her Introduction, Andersen is careful to assert as “opinion,” rather than fact, that her ex-husband, James Montgomery—her central, but by no means only—subject in the book, is a sociopath. From my careful reading of Love Fraud, I’d suggest no such qualification is needed: Montgomery seems to me to embody the classic sociopath perfectly.
This book is many things: it is, first of all, a flat-out “page-turner,” meaning it will grip you, from its opening pages, like an inflating blood pressure cuff. Nor, at any point along the way, will it release its grip. Love Fraud’s suspense builds steadily and relentlessly, generating and sustaining an almost visceral tension.
Of course, this is a work of non-fiction, in which everything Andersen writes about is painfully true. And so, thanks to her prodigious reportorial skills, it triumphs as a journalistic masterpiece. In pitch-perfect detail, Andersen unmasks Montgomery the sociopath, unpeeling for the reader his infinitely exploitive nature, layer by layer, as if in real-time.
What results is an epic, cohesively structured story, the power of whose sum is even greater than its impressive constituent parts.
But I said this book is many things. It is, at once, painful and beautiful. Montgomery, after all, caused Andersen and others incalculable anguish. And Andersen shares in Love Fraud, and shares it with profoundly intimate vulnerability, both the quality and depth of her anguish. Thus, while she’s unmasking Montgomery and probing the depths of his sinister treachery—simultaneously, and just as unsparingly, she’s unmasking herself to reveal the depths of her insecurity, sorrow, vulnerability, despair and ultimately, unbreakable faith and resilience.
I must stress—the writing is so vivid and lush with detail that I had the sensation of having been invited into a real-time world with a real-life sociopath, the effect of which was to leave me with a sense of having had a powerful virtual-reality experience. Which is to say that Andersen’s Love Fraud isn’t merely a remarkable read, but a uniquely powerful reading experience.
I also said the book is beautiful, by which I mean that Andersen’s testimony of her struggles, self-discovery, and recovery from this ruinous human being is, finally, transcendent and inspirational.
In the end, she and Montgomery take their rightful places: Andersen, tapping into deep spiritual resources and propelled by hard-earned self-growth, elevates herself and thrives; while Montgomery, thanks in large part to Andersen, is permanently exposed as the sociopathic predator and parasite that he is. For all his heartless, damaging deceipt, Montgomery is properly understood, and finally positioned, as the puny, pathetic human being he is.
Love Fraud is a searing book, full of outrage, hope and priceless wisdom. It is the rare book that succeeds on so many levels, simultaneously, that I suspect it will deserve to be called truly unforgettable. I suggest you make room for it on your select shelf of classics on the subject of sociopathy.