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Stalking Irish Madness by Patrick Tracey
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Stalking Irish Madness (2008)

by Patrick Tracey

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Tracing his roots — 2 of 5 siblings have it — in his family
good schizophrenia research
famous Rose common study — no cure
likely to pass down — Fairy mounds water for cure good

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.
  christinejoseph | Jun 19, 2017 |
This is a very poignant and compassionate book, and generally well-written. The sheer amount of Irish history can become overwhelming at points, and the book loses some focus when Tracey sidetracks to hunt down some of his other personal demons. But for the most part, this is a fascinating, and mostly approachable, exploration of schizophrenia on multiple levels--historically, culturally, medically, and personally. Even for those with minimal interest in the subject, the book is worth skimming just to read some of the beautiful turns of phrase Tracey comes up with. My personal favorite: "I know that for most people, the idea of going insane is unthinkable. For most families, sanity is a given, as easy as breathing, as sure as seeing the sun rise in the eastern sky. For too many of us, however, there is a creaky gate that swings open at the cusp of adulthood, and on the other side is madness. On us sanity rests no more securely than a hat blown off in the wind. In my family, schizophrenia hangs the moon and tells the sun when to set."

That perspective makes his description of the losses of two of his sisters--who went out into the world as happy, bright, sane girls with promising futures ahead, and came home strangers in need of lifelong hospitalization--all the more heartwrenching. He talks about watching them go to places where he can't follow and can't help them, and having no way to draw them back to his reality. As a psych student, I thought I knew a lot about what schizophrenia was...but this book showed me I had no idea ( )
  Jeslieness | May 30, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As a clinical social worker I find the topic of mental illness extremely interesting- I had difficulty with the Irish terms and got lost at times in his description of his family's schizophrenia- I feel that Tracey deserves a lot of credit for writing about a topic that is so misunderstood by so many people
1 vote cdyankeefan | Aug 5, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An interesting read with a subject matter I was keen to learn more about. I walked away feeling like I knew more about the mental disorder that so tragically gripped his family as well as more about his native country. It did, however, take me quite a while to get through and I felt as though some of the text dragged on too long. A little bit of reorganization might have made it more poignant for me. ( )
  rosylibrarian | Jul 9, 2009 |
I found this hard to finish. I was hoping for more information about the topic but instead the part about the trip to Ireland felt that there was a lot padding of the story to make the book seem longer than it really needed to be. This could have been a much more gripping story. Unsatisfying. ( )
1 vote jtlauderdale | Jul 1, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553805258, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:26 -0400)

The author looks at his family's battle with the scourge of schizophrenia, tracing the origins of the disease through earlier generations of his family against the backdrop of Irish history to reveal Ireland's long link to mental illness.

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Patrick Tracey's book Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for the Roots of My Family's Schizophrenia was available from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

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