Synopses & Reviews
The story of a loving family coming to grips with its own fragilities, A Legacy of Madness
relays the author's journey to uncover, and ultimately understand, the history of mental illness that led generations of his suburban American family to their demise.
Dede Davis had worried, fussed, and obsessed for the last time: Her heart stopped beating in a fit of anxiety. In the wake of his mother's death, Tom Davis knew one thing: Helplessly self-absorbed and severely obsessive compulsive, Dede led a tormented life. She spent years bouncing around mental health facilities, nursing homes, and assisted-living facilities, but what really caused her death?
A Legacy of Madness portrays Tom Davis's captivating discoveries of mental illness throughout generations of his family. Investigating his mother's history led to that of Davis's grandfather, a top administrator at one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in the country; his great-grandfather who died of self-inflicted gas asphyxiation during the Depression; and his great-great grandmother who, with her eldest son, completed suicide one tragic day. Ultimately, four generations of family members showed clear signs of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and alcoholism--often mistreated illnesses that test one's ability to cope.
Through this intimate memoir, we join Davis on a personal odyssey to ensure that he and his siblings, the fifth generation,--recover their family legacy by not only surviving their own mental health disorders but by getting the help they need to lead healthy, balanced lives. In the end, we witness Davis's powerful transition as he makes peace with the past and heals through forgiveness and compassion for his family--and himself.
About the author Tom Davis is the Jersey Shore regional editor for Patch.com and an adjunct professor of journalism at Rutgers University. This is his first book. He lives in Metuchen, New Jersey.
"Rutgers journalism professor Davis examines the problems that plagued his family for four generations. Peering into the past, he opens this family history with a vivid recreation of the day his mother died, ending her 30-year battle with mental illness: 'I had had many of the same impulses as my mother and grandfather, enduring years of eating disorders and obsessive compulsiveness. I wanted to know why we were the way we were, and whether there was some family curse that I was failing to stop.' Probing childhood memories, he recalls his growing awareness that something was wrong with his mother, yet too young to comprehend her illness or the 'drunken antics' of his alcoholic grandfather, an administrator at a large psychiatric hospital. At age 10, his suspicions were confirmed when he saw a movie with scenes of Howard Hughes's obsessive-compulsive behavior: 'That's Mommy! I wanted to say.' Stunned when he learned that his great-great grandmother and her eldest son committed suicide on the same day in 1928 and that five years later his great-grandfather died of self-inflicted gas asphyxiation, he felt he had discovered 'some lost treasure' and began the intense research that led to this haunting, soul-searching book. He paged through newspapers and reference books while interviewing more than 60 family members, psychiatrists, friends, and family acquaintances." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Davis, Tom. A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness.
Hazelden. Oct. 2011. c.288p. ISBN 9781616491215. pap. $14.95. PSYCH
In this debut, Davis (journalism, Rutgers Univ.; Jersey Shore regional editor, Patch.com) traces his family through five generations of various mental health disorders including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and alcoholism. More than just a memoir, his book offers insight not only into the struggles of those with mental illness but into the challenges of their family members as well. Davis reveals how he has been able to cope with his family's mental illness and how he has healed. He points out that by studying our families' medical history, we can learn how the experiences of prior generations will affect our own mental health and take steps to seek out the counseling and medication we require to live a healthy, balanced life.
Verdict Recommended for both public and academic libraries for its rare perspective on mental illness.--Lisa Felix, Mishawaka-Penn-Harris P.L., IN Lisa Felix
About the Author
Tom Davis is the Jersey Shore regional editor for Patch.com and an adjunct professor of journalism at Rutgers University. This is his first book. He lives in Metuchen, New Jersey.