The publication of Allison Dubois’s Don’t Kiss Them Goodbye comes at a fitting time. A psychic and afterlife communicator, Dubois has recently become a household name thanks to Medium, Glenn Gordon Caron’s series based on Dubois’s life and career, starring Emmy-nominated Patricia Arquette. The show has been a hit for NBC, and has been picked up for a second season. Dubois’s connection to the show is all over her book, from the giant banner announcing her as its inspiration to the recommendation in blurb-form from Medium producer Kelsey Grammer.
The connection between Medium and Don’t Kiss Them Good-bye extends beyond timing (the book appeared in the US on the same day its 10th episode aired). While the show often succumbs to crime-time TV clichés that render it frustratingly predictable, it features some excellent moments between Allison (Arquette) and her husband Joe, played by Jake Weber, that make it highly watchable. Dubois’s book is similar in that it mixes gripping moments with repetitive ones. She holds the reader’s attention when discussing her gift only to lose it again with abrupt gearshifts and overlong deliberations on key points.
It’s a pity, because DuBois’s gift is astounding. She can communicate with dead people, and see into the future to reveal important information to her clients about their health, relationships, and career paths. Through her gift, she has helped hundreds of people to better accept the loss of a loved one, and she’s even assisted police in profiling criminals and finding missing persons.
The problem with DuBois’s book is that exploration of this miraculous and otherworldly gift is lost amid a confused, unfocused work that can’t decide if it’s a memoir, self-help book, or a book of advice for potential psychics or parents of psychics. Chapters are broken into sections that are often unrelated. A chapter titled “Do You Really Want to Know?”, for instance, begins with DuBois relating exactly how she decides what to reveal to clients in order not the burden them unnecessarily. It ends with a short paragraph on the existence of hell, yet in the middle a section titled “Live!” features DuBois’s thoughts on daring to dream and living a full life. It’s not that a woman so in tune with the afterlife shouldn’t deliberate on this one; it’s simply that its placement adds to the book’s randomness (her momentary plea to medical practitioners to enjoy life in the “Empathy” chapter is similarly incongruous).
Dubois’s psychic experiences fill the book, but reflection on those experiences is surprisingly rare. So much so that it’s difficult to gain a genuine sense of her life and her own understanding of her abilities. Only when she responds to misconceptions about psychics in the “Gifted” chapter does the book begin to dig beneath DuBois’s surface:
If your dishwasher breaks, you’re asked, “Didn’t you see it coming?”… It takes a lot of energy to turn up our volume, so we aren’t always paying attention; we are busy living, and we are only human. Also, psychics don’t see everything. Yes, we have a sixth sense, but our other five sense are fallible, so why is our sixth sense not permitted any leeway?
This kind of analysis is sidelined in the book to make room for long chapters considering the effects of DuBois’s sixth sense on others, and pages spent almost forcing the reader to believe in the gift with this repeated pattern: here’s what I saw; here’s what happened; see how similar they are? Early in the book, for instance, DuBois gives specific details she knew about the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping that each proved correct when the girl was found.
This raises another odd question about Don’t Kiss Them Good-bye. DuBois reiterates throughout the book how important it is for psychics to be recognized as genuine and necessary in police work, and yet all the clarifying she does here leads the reader to wonder just how much faith she has that they (we) have the capacity for believing in the work at all. At times DuBois appears understanding of the non-psychic’s standpoint, realizing and relating to the difficulties in accepting her abilities. At other times, she can be extraordinarily condescending, and sometimes even contradictory. One chapter begins: “I watching Oprah… (yes, I watch Oprah!)”, as though someone with her capabilities would never do anything so banal. In another chapter, she explains to a repairman what she thinks is wrong with her home alarm system. She is, of course, correct, but instead of explaining her gift to the repairman, she “[finds] it amusing to let his mind wander. Oh well. The truth would probably have been harder for him to take anyway.”
How can the general public be expected to understand something even DuBois admits they couldn’t cope with? DuBois discusses her participation in bring the Amber Alert system (which makes the public aware of kidnappings as soon as they happen) to Phoenix:
I chose to remain anonymous until the alert system was made public and put into use because I didn’t want to diminish my credibility in anyway. It made me sad, but I was just being realistic.
This comes soon after she writes: “I hope someday the system will recognize people like me who are legitimate.” The reader is forced to wonder exactly how something she hides for fear of killing her credibility has any chance at all of gaining attention and acceptance by non-psychics — believers or skeptics.
Medium the series, manages — through those great Joe and Allison scenes — to delve into the main character’s private life with more intrigue and introspection than Don’t Kiss Them Good-bye. It’s almost as if she saved the good bits for Caron and his writing team. It’s good for the show, but not so much for the book. Though DuBois’s writing voice is heartwarming, and she does get to the nitty-gritty on certain aspects of her blessed life, the book is so lacking where it matters that it feels like a rushed-to-shelves advertisement for the show, rather than a gifted woman’s story.