Synopses & Reviews
In this powerful, sometimes harrowing, deeply felt story, Patrick Tracey journeys to Ireland to track the origin and solve the mystery of his Irish-American family's multigenerational struggle with schizophrenia.
For most Irish Americans, a trip to Ireland is often an occasion to revisit their family's roots. But for Patrick Tracey, the lure of his ancestral home is a much more powerful need: part pilgrimage, part investigation to confront the genealogical mystery of schizophrenia-a disease that had claimed a great-great-great-grandmother, a grandmother, an uncle, and, most recently, two sisters.
As long as Tracey could remember, schizophrenia ran on his mother's side, seldom spoken of outright but impossible to ignore. Devastated by the emotional toll the disease had already taken on his family, terrified of passing it on to any children he might have, and inspired by the recent discovery of the first genetic link to schizophrenia, Tracey followed his genealogical trail from Boston to Ireland's county Roscommon, home of his oldest-known schizophrenic ancestor. In a renovated camper, Tracey crossed the Emerald Isle to investigate the country that, until the 1960s, had the world's highest rate of institutionalization for mental illness, following clues and separating fact from fiction in the legendary relationship the Irish have had with madness.
Tracey's path leads from fairy mounds and ancient caverns still shrouded in superstition to old pubs whose colorful inhabitants are a treasure trove of local lore. He visits the massive and grim asylum where his famine starved ancestors may have lived. And he interviews the Irish research team that first cracked the schizophrenic code to learn how much-and how little-we know about this often misunderstood disease.
Filled with history, science, and lore, Stalking Irish Madness is an unforgettable chronicle of one man's attempt to make sense of his family's past and to find hope for the future of schizophrenic patients.
"After describing the sudden onset of madness in one of his older sisters, followed two years later by his younger sister's, Tracey seeks to understand the legacy of schizophrenia that has haunted his family for generations, traced back to his great-great-grandmother Mary Egan, who emigrated from Ireland. His search takes him first to County Roscommon, the mythic center of Ireland, where he explores the Irish lore of fairies who, according to myth, 'capture minds from those who lose them.' Tracey then travels to Dublin to consider more scientific explanations for schizophrenia, but even Dr. Dermot Walsh, who helped link the dysbindin gene to this mental state, cannot offer anything conclusive. He concludes his travels at Gleanna-a-Galt where he finds the legendary well his mother told him about when he was a child, a well said to make the mad whole again. In a symbolic gesture at a loss for anything else he can do he procures two bottles of the healing water for his sisters. While Tracey finds no conclusive answers, his book helps to dispel misconceptions about schizophrenia and reveals the various attempts by experts to make sense of this mental illness. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Tracy deftly interweaves personal narrative with history, science, and lore in the unforgettable chronicle of one man's attempt to make sense of his family's devastating battle with mental illness and to find hope for the future of schizophrenic patients.
About the Author
Patrick Tracey, a former contributing writer for the Washington City Paper and Regardies in Washington, D.C., has also written for Ms. magazine and the Washington Post. He is the author of two nonfiction collections of biographical essays for the American Profiles series. After twenty-five years on his own twisted road, Tracey now lives with his sisters in Boston, Massachusetts.