by Barbara Oakley
Prometheus Books, 2011
Review by James K. Luiselli, Ed.D., ABPP, BCBA-D
May 31st 2011 (Volume 15, Issue 22)
In July of 2006, 46-year old Carole Alden shot and killed her husband, Marty Sessions, in their double-wide trailer home. Neither Alden or Sessions were stable or well adjusted individuals. Acknowledged as a respected artist, Carole had married three times and was noted for living in squalid conditions while apparently devoting herself to caring for hundreds of animals that she took in. Marty was a chronic drug user with a criminal record and several stints in prison. Alden was eventually convicted of manslaughter and to this day, remains behind bars. In Cold-Blooded Kindness, author Barbara Oakley reconstructs the facts about the Sessions murder by reviewing police records, dissecting trial testimony, and interviewing people who knew the protagonists. Oakley also accumulated nearly 100 letters Alden wrote to her from prison. As well, the author met and interviewed Alden at the Utah State Penitentiary.
The book features two dominant and intersecting themes, one being that Carole Alden struggled withpathological altruism, manifested by her unconditional care of other people or as Oakley writes, "an unhealthy focus on others to the detriment of one's own needs." In turn, Alden's altruistic compulsions codified her status as a co-dependent adult, a so-called "enabler" who contributed to Marty's lifelong drug addiction. The second theme of the book addresses Alden's claim and legal defense that she killed her husband because she had endured years of his physical and sexual abuse. Accordingly, Oakley explores the clinical and research basis for the battered woman syndrome, largely to reconcile the veracity of Alden's accusations with evidence that was revealed in court and the first-hand, albeit inconsistent, accounts of family members..." More