He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter’s Quest to Know Him by Mimi Baird with Eve Claxton
Age range: adult | Hardcover: 272 pages | Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (February 17, 2015) | Genre: Memoir/biography
About He Wanted the Moon:
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.
Find the Book:
Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Kobo
My Thoughts on He Wanted the Moon:
Dr. Perry Baird was a brilliant man with a promising career ahead of him. He was bright, charismatic, and full of energy. He had a beautiful wife and two little daughters that he loved dearly. He also suffered from manic depression. In the high manic phases, he had an abundance of energy and stamina. He was also violent, destructive, and unpredictable. The first part of He Wanted the Moon is Dr. Baird’s own account of his illness and the treatments of the day. It’s fascinating, horrifying, and spell-binding. I couldn’t put the book down once I picked it up. I finished the book the same day I started it.
The second half of the book is the account of Dr. Baird’s daughter, Mimi and her quest to uncover her father’s story. As she learns more about the man he was, she discovers more about herself and her childhood. Questions she’s held onto for decades are finally answered as she discovers the father she barely knew.
This is a riveting book. It’s not a difficult read, as both Mimi and her father prove to be excellent writers. Dr. Baird’s recordings are particularly interesting; often humorous, and often horrifying. I would highly recommend reading this book to anyone that enjoys nonfiction, history, biographies, or good books.
Content: A few comments of a sexual nature (no sex), and cruelty.
Source: I received a copy of this book through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.
Sign up for my weekly-ish newsletter to stay up to date on new giveaways, author interviews, reviews, and other awesomeness! Sign up now.