Narrator Johnny Heller portrays a man recounting his distant and incomplete memories of a dysfunctional home with parents who abused him. In the opening chapters he speaks as the young boy, telling what behavior led his parents, in 1960, to have a quack doctor scramble his brain with an ice pick at age 12. Later Heller's sandy, mature voice becomes the teenager describing a troubled life, in and out of institutions and jails. Heller's expression fits the author's sad struggle to grow up after suffering parental and neural damage. He depicts no strong emotion until the last, when he assumes Dully's indignation at the discovery of the lies his stepmother told the surgeon to justify the destruction of his frontal lobes.
Assisted by journalist/novelist Charles Fleming, Howard Dully recounts a family tragedy whose Sophoclean proportions he could only sketch in his powerful 2005 broadcast on NPR's All Things Considered.
"In 1960," he writes, "I was given a transorbital, or 'ice pick' lobotomy. My stepmother arranged it. My father agreed to it. Dr. Walter Freeman, the father of the American lobotomy, told me he was going to do some 'tests'. It took 10 minutes and cost 200 dollars."
Fellow doctors called Freeman's technique barbaric: an ice pick¿like instrument was inserted about three inches into each eye socket and twirled to sever connections from the frontal lobe to the rest of the brain. The procedure was intended to help curb a variety of psychoses by muting emotional responses, but sometimes it irreversibly reduced patients to a childlike state or (in 15 percent of the operations Freeman performed) killed them outright. Dully's 10-minute "test" did neither, but in some ways it had a far crueler result, since it didn't end the unruly behavior that had set his stepmother against him to begin with.
"I spent the next 40 years in and out of insane asylums, jails, and halfway houses," he tells us. "I was homeless, alcoholic, and drug-addicted. I was lost."
From all accounts, there was no excuse for the lobotomy. Dully had never been "crazy", and his (not very) bad behavior sounds like the typical acting-up of a child in desperate need of affection. His stepmother responded with unrelenting abuse and neglect, and his father allowed her to demonize his son and never admitted his complicity in the lobotomy; Freeman capitalized on their monumental dysfunction. It's a tale of epic horror, and while Dully's courage in telling it inspires awe, listeners are left to speculate about what drove supposedly responsible adults to such unconscionable acts.
©2007 Howard Dully and Charles Fleming; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.
"Brutally honest....Truly stunning." (Publishers Weekly)
"Gut wrenching....It's a tale of epic horror, and while Dully's courage in telling it inspires awe, readers are left to speculate about what drove supposedly responsible adults to such unconscionable acts. A profoundly disturbing survivor's tale." (Kirkus)
For an hour or so, this personal tragedy irritated me and made me feel uncomfortable. However, what at first seems like dishonesty soon reveals itelf to be an entirely truthful and extremely upsetting study of ugliness not so far removed.
The author deals with questions and pain that thankfully most of us have never had to ponder. He reveals himself to be no better or worse than most of us. From his personal tragedy we can learn to be kinder, better people.
I recommend this book for anyone not afraid to plum the depths of emotion and the troubled mind.
There is a lot to take in, but the confrontation with his father was fascinating and heartbreaking for sure.
His time at the special school - which was closed down - was entertaining.
The way in which the so-called doctor acted and behaved disgusted me beyond words. Also, Howard's father was particularly shocking in his reaction and excuses.
I hesitated to get this book for years, as the title seems too harsh. But believe me, it's a touching story about a young man who overcomes many heart-wrenching obstacles. Howard really is inspirational.
Above all, this story is more proof that parents need to spend more time with their kids, and not be so hasty as to put them on psychiatric drugs. Often, if you correct the problems at home, your kids might likewise improve their behavior.
This book is an interesting read. This ordinary boy undergoes a tragic event and is fortunate enough to come out of it with his wits intact. It is a study in how circumstances and situations form a person's perception of himself and influence his way through life. But in the end, his real character comes out. The book also sheds light on the government system and how it is used and abused quite readily without offering the real support people need to help themselves. The great thing about Henry Dully is that he does not judge, but narrates events as they truly happened and still manages to keep you involved in his story. A must read in my book.
It was weird to learn what doctors got away with back then.. It is difficult to continue listening because of the extreme repetitiveness in the novel.
Lobotomy's were not uncommon, yet first person accounts are rare. This story follows Howard Dully from childhood to his mid 50's, the whole time capturing his feelings and awareness of what's going on around him. He's telling a story that so many other patients are physically unable to tell.
The story focuses on Howard and his father, but I love the brother, who knew something was amiss, but never realized fully what it was.
The description of the interview at the end of the book. It was enough to make me download the actual interview so I could hear it first hand.
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
books of this genre. A powerful and mostly unbiased account of the life of a man who was lobotomized when he was only 12 years old by Walter Freeman, the father of the worst "medical treatment" in the history of quackery. We are also reminded at the end of the book that we have not come so very far from the 1950's as we think, declaring that "difficult" children are bi-polar or ADHD (in the 1950's, "schizophrenia" was the catch-phrase for hard to handle kids) and filling them full of pills, giving them a "chemical lobotomy." The more things change, the more they stay the same.
This was an engaging listen. I was caught up in the story telling and the heart strings that were tugged. How could someone do this to a child? I definitely suggest this book at ANYONE!
Fascinating in content, but the book ran a little slow to me. It seemed to repeat the same facts over and over again. I enjoyed the actual NPR program where you get to hear his actual voice and the emotion he feels. The reader seems to be void of emotion.
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