Book Review / Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight
M.E. Thomas

As an “empath”—what M.E. Thomas calls non-sociopathic people—I was shocked at Thomas’s opening scene, in which the author comes across a drowning baby possum and, instead of helping, tries to hasten the drowning. I assumed the memoir would be filled with similar tales of cruel and unusual behavior, and I was right; that behavior, though, doesn’t quite reach the horror of Ted Bundy’s murderous impulses or Josef Mengele-like sadism. Thomas’s brand of sociopathy is less amplified but still hurtful: she steals, she purposefully breaks hearts, she makes false accusations of sexual assault and sets out to “ruin” people. In short, she’s a jerk, one who will do anything she can to get what she wants. Thomas, a successful attorney, points out that her sociopathic qualities—ruthless determination and undeniable charm—are traits that CEOs and politicians must have to succeed. (1 in 25 people are sociopaths, she tells us. They can’t all be serial killers.) While Thomas’ tale is entertaining and well-written on its own, what’s most interesting is the way in which she tries to reframe our collective understanding of sociopathy. Thomas argues that she isn’t insane; she’s completely aware of her actions but just doesn’t feel badly about them. She has plenty of friends and leads a fairly normal life. Reading her book, you may be horrified by what she does, but you’ll certainly begin to question the parameters of personality and the ways in which we approach mental illness.