My Lobotomy by Howard Dully

70%

5 Critic Reviews

It’s a tale of epic horror, and while Dully’s courage in telling it inspires awe, readers are left to speculate about what drove supposedly responsible adults to such unconscionable acts. A profoundly disturbing survivor’s tale.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

At twelve, Howard Dully was guilty of the same crimes as other boys his age: he was moody and messy, rambunctious with his brothers, contrary just to prove a point, and perpetually at odds with his parents. Yet somehow, this normal boy became one of the youngest people on whom Dr. Walter Freeman performed his barbaric transorbital—or ice pick—lobotomy.

Abandoned by his family within a year of the surgery, Howard spent his teen years in mental institutions, his twenties in jail, and his thirties in a bottle. It wasn’t until he was in his forties that Howard began to pull his life together. But even as he began to live the “normal” life he had been denied, Howard struggled with one question: Why?

“October 8, 1960. I gather that Mrs. Dully is perpetually talking, admonishing, correcting, and getting worked up into a spasm, whereas her husband is impatient, explosive, rather brutal, won’t let the boy speak for himself, and calls him numbskull, dimwit, and other uncomplimentary names.”

There were only three people who would know the truth: Freeman, the man who performed the procedure; Lou, his cold and demanding stepmother who brought Howard to the doctor’s attention; and his father, Rodney. Of the three, only Rodney, the man who hadn’t intervened on his son’s behalf, was still living. Time was running out. Stable and happy for the first time in decades, Howard began to search for answers.

“December 3, 1960. Mr. and Mrs. Dully have apparently decided to have Howard operated on. I suggested [they] not tell Howard anything about it.”

Through his research, Howard met other lobotomy patients and their families, talked with one of Freeman’s sons about his father’s controversial life’s work, and confronted Rodney about his complicity. And, in the archive where the doctor’s files are stored, he finally came face to face with the truth.

Revealing what happened to a child no one—not his father, not the medical community, not the state—was willing to protect, My Lobotomy exposes a shameful chapter in the history of the treatment of mental illness. Yet, ultimately, this is a powerful and moving chronicle of the life of one man. Without reticence, Howard Dully shares the story of a painfully dysfunctional childhood, a misspent youth, his struggle to claim the life that was taken from him, and his redemption.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Howard Dully

See more books from this Author
HOWARD DULLY is a tour bus driver who lives happily with his wife in San Jose, California. This is his first book. CHARLES FLEMING is a former Newsweek correspondent and Vanity Fair contributor and the coauthor of a number of bestselling nonfiction books. He lives in Los Angeles.From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published September 4, 2007 by Broadway Books. 290 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Parenting & Relationships, Professional & Technical, Business & Economics, Science & Math. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Sep 06 2015
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for My Lobotomy
All: 5 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Above average
on May 20 2010

It’s a tale of epic horror, and while Dully’s courage in telling it inspires awe, readers are left to speculate about what drove supposedly responsible adults to such unconscionable acts. A profoundly disturbing survivor’s tale.

Read Full Review of My Lobotomy | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Jun 04 2007

But what is truly stunning is Dully's description of how he gained strength and a sense of self-worth by understanding how both Freeman and his stepmother were victims of their own family tragedies, and how he managed to somehow forgive them for the wreckage they caused in his life.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by William Grimes on Sep 14 2007

The lobotomy, he writes, made him feel like a Frankenstein monster. But that’s not quite right. By the age of 12 he already felt that way. It’s this that makes “My Lobotomy” one of the saddest stories you’ll ever read.

Read Full Review of My Lobotomy | See more reviews from NY Times

Pajiba

Below average
Reviewed by Amanda on Jun 01 2009

So: the writing was up and down. There were some passages that were really well written and compelling. But then there were some parts that were, well, choppy (no lobotomy pun intended). They just didn't jive with the rest of the book. But it was a quick read, and I had a hard time putting it down.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Good
Reviewed by June Sawyers on Sep 10 2007

All Howard Dully wanted was to be normal. His entire life has been a search for normality. He did what he had to do to survive. This book is his legacy, and it is a powerful one.

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Reader Rating for My Lobotomy
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