He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter's Quest to Know Him by Mimi Baird is comprised largely of the account of her father's stay in a mental institution in the 1940s. Using his original manuscript that she edited for clarity, Baird recounts the story of the man whose illness stole him from her.
Dr. Perry Baird was a successful dermatologist in the Boston area in the 1940s. He suffered from what today would be called bipolar disorder. The lack of understanding and effective treatment of mental illness during this time led to his involuntary incarceration in Westborough State Hospital.
Without giving too much away, I find myself wondering, as Dr. Baird himself did, if the treatment he received while in the hospital only exacerbated his problem and led to the drastic measures both he and the medical community would later take. Dr. Baird's description of his treatment and his thoughts during his manic times is remarkably clear and well articulated. He allows the reader to almost feel what he was going through. Mimi Baird's contribution that describes the rest of her father's life after his manuscript ends adds to the dismay I felt for Dr. Baird and his family. The separation imposed by society at the time between the mentally ill and everyone familiar to him only added to the brokenness of the situation.
Anyone interested in the history of mental health treatment in America will find He Wanted the Moon an engaging read. Those interested in family relationships and the dynamics of society in the 1940s will also find this book of interest.
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