Soon to be a major motion picture, from Brad Pitt and Tony Kushner
A Washington Post Best Book of 2015
A mid-century doctor’s raw, unvarnished account of his own descent into madness, and his daughter’s attempt to piece his life back together and make sense of her own.
Texas-born and Harvard-educated, Dr. Perry Baird was a rising medical star in the late 1920s and 1930s. Early in his career, ahead of his time, he grew fascinated with identifying the biochemical root of manic depression, just as he began to suffer from it himself. By the time the results of his groundbreaking experiments were published, Dr. Baird had been institutionalized multiple times, his medical license revoked, and his wife and daughters estranged. He later received a lobotomy and died from a consequent seizure, his research incomplete, his achievements unrecognized.
Mimi Baird grew up never fully knowing this story, as her family went silent about the father who had been absent for most of her childhood. Decades later, a string of extraordinary coincidences led to the recovery of a manuscript which Dr. Baird had worked on throughout his brutal institutionalization, confinement, and escape. This remarkable document, reflecting periods of both manic exhilaration and clear-headed health, presents a startling portrait of a man who was a uniquely astute observer of his own condition, struggling with a disease for which there was no cure, racing against time to unlock the key to treatment before his illness became impossible to manage.
Fifty years after being told her father would forever be “ill” and “away,” Mimi Baird set off on a quest to piece together the memoir and the man. In time her fingers became stained with the lead of the pencil he had used to write his manuscript, as she devoted herself to understanding who he was, why he disappeared, and what legacy she had inherited. The result of his extraordinary record and her journey to bring his name to light is He Wanted the Moon, an unforgettable testament to the reaches of the mind and the redeeming power of a determined heart.
My Review: I requested a review copy of this book because I have always been interested in mental illness and its’ various “treatments” throughout time. This was pieced together by Dr. Baird’s daughters and it contains his personal accounts of his various times and experiences with treatments for his condition of bipolar disorder. Dr. Baird was in and out of Psychiatric hospitals and during those stays he was subjected to many different forms of torturous treatments. At this time, doctors didn’t know much about bipolar disorder and how to regulate the drastic “mood swings” that accompany it. Dr. Baird was eventually stripped of his license to practice Dermatology and he tried to escape these facilities many times.
Mimi did not know much about her father as his illness started to manifest when she was a young girl. Her mother did not talk about her father’s disease and after a while she refused to talk about him at all. He father’s manuscript came to her after his passing. As she spoke to his various friends and looked into some correspondence between him and others, she was able to fulfill his wish and put together this book so that other would know about his experience with bipolar disorder.
I found this to be interesting but slow. It reminded me of James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces and I wasn’t sure what exactly I could trust as fact. I am interested to see what Brad Pitt does with this as a movie. I gave this book 2 1/2 stars.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.