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.
From the Hardcover edition.
Thanks to a chance meeting 20 years ago with one of her father's former colleagues, Baird, daughter of Perry Baird a Harvard-educated mid-20th-century physician of some renown who was locked away and never spoken of as he succumbed to the ravages of mental illness gets the keys to unlocking the mystery of what happened to her father. Perry Baird was diagnosed with manic depression in the 1930s at a time when doctors had little comprehension of the disease and employed shockingly barbaric and useless "cures" such as straitjackets, isolation, and lobotomies on institutionalized patients. Perry Baird was a pioneer in attempting to understand the workings of manic depression, conducting lab experiments to find the biochemical cause as the illness steadily took hold of him. His daughter, who saw him only once after he'd been sent to a mental hospital when she was still a young child aided by the unearthed manuscript her father had written while committed that she pieces together and includes seeks to unravel the heartbreaking circumstances of what befell her father for all those decades when her family refused to talk about him. She is the one who rediscovers her father's experiments and gets him the long overdue credit from the scientific community he deserved. In bringing her father's harrowing, tragic, and moving story to life, Mimi Baird celebrates him and gives voice to the terrible suffering the mentally ill once endured, and still do today, and challenges the prejudices and misperceptions the public continues to have about the disease.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I have manic depression. Despite the highs, the lows and a couple of stays in a hospital, I lead a pretty normal life. It is hard to imagine how mental illness and it’s treatments were dealt with over 50 years ago. I am glad you were able to reconstruct his life. He would have been very proud of your effort !!