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Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for the Roots of My Family's Schizophrenia Hardcover – August 26, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1st edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553805258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553805253
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #496,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

This harrowing first memoir follows journalist Tracey's search for the roots of his family's "Irish madness," i.e., schizophrenia. As he traverses Ireland in a renovated camper, he visits sites that may have been cursed by the Druids, fairy mounds, and ancient shrines, trying to separate fact from fiction. He even interviews the Irish research team that first discovered the gene code for schizophrenia. Spared the disease himself, he records the anxiety his mother felt about having children and reveals his father's vain conviction, common in the 1940s and 1950s, that a stable household and good parenting would prevail over mental illness. Powerfully moving, Tracey's investigation will fascinate anyone interested in the mysteries of mental illness.—Elizabeth Brinkley
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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This book was a fascinating read.
twinmommy
Anyhow, Patrick Tracey has written a unique travelogue of Ireland as well as an account of a bittersweet journey of familial understanding, love, and mercy.
Todd Sentell
Mr. Tracey is an excellent storyteller and journalist, and his writing is both elucidating and touching.
Tracey5200

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 1, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
Since my family comes from around the same area as Tracey's in the Irish west, I was curious to follow Bostonian native while "searching for the roots of my family's schizophrenia." It's what he defines poetically as "an apocalyptic form of madness because it robs its victim of our most precious human gift: the ability to separate the real world from the unreal and to trust one's own thoughts as true." (10)

Two of his sisters, his uncle, his grandmother, and her grandmother in turn had been struck by this affliction in their young adulthood. Mixing his personal saga with encounters with those who share the illness and those who argue-- variously-- how to cope with its assaults, Tracey witnesses New Age-aligned healers, medical professionals (who turn out to know much less than one might expect), and those who guard their own family's similar secrets. He follows the history of the disease in Ireland, and integrates smoothly much of the nation's history and trauma on an island-wide level with the impact felt on the domestic and institutional fronts over centuries. Tracey wonders if the legend that the Irish have been so cursed more than other peoples can be validated by genetic research, so he embarks on a quest to Ireland to investigate.

He begins his account with a look at his two sisters and what he knows of his family's previous incidents; he blends his own memoir with a commendable combination of tact and candor. He's excellent at gleaning what separates Irish Americans, in turn, from those born there, and his chapter about a night in a Co.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Meredith VINE VOICE on September 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am so thoroughly enjoying this book, even though my heart breaks on each page. Tracey has researched farther back than I could even fathom tracing my own family tree. His tales about his family are interesting and so well told that I can see the houses. I feel as if I know the great-grandmother, I can almost feel her pain.

He describes schizophrenia in words that I have never heard before. It has opened another level of understanding. The horror that is losing someone in the blink of an eye, having them replaced with a different person, is terrifying. I found myself checking my age versus the statistics, wondering if my own children are safe.

My heart goes out to him for all of his tragedy. But I do so appreciate his ability to put it into words and on paper for everyone to experience.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By trp on January 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It was difficult for me to make myself read Patrick Tracey's book because his story is too much like my own. My Irish ancestors, like Mr. Tracey's, came from County Roscommon in the wake of the Irish Famine and worked in cotton and woolen mills in Providence. Mr. Tracey captures the experience of having loved ones "taken" by schizophrenia and the resulting family disruptions with painful eloquence. Much as I appreciate that part of the book, what I most appreciated was the research into the genetic and environmental factors that have gone into making this horrible disease such a part of the Irish experience. Finally, an explanation. Maybe, someday, a cure.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By W. P. Keeler on November 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I didn't so much read as devour Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for The Roots of my Family's Schizophrenia, in which writer Patrick Tracey travels to Ireland to unravel the origins of his Irish-American family's multi-generational struggle with schizophrenia. Two of Tracey's sisters, his uncle, his grandmother, and a grandmother several generations back have been victims of the brain disorder.
Tracey had the discipline to hold back the drama and fireworks that many writers would have been tempted to include in a book about schizophrenia. His love for his sisters is so palpable and sweet that it makes what happens to them stand out starkly and heartbreakingly in a way that histrionics could not.
The structure--part memoir, part history, part Travels with Charley, part detective nonfiction--and Tracey's insight, honesty, and sense of humor make the book a page-turner. He writes easily about the dry stuff, which all too often writers can make stultifying: history, medicine, mythology. Tracey's journey through Ireland past and present is a worthy read unto itself.
Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for The Roots of my Family's Schizophrenia will share space on my bookshelf with others that have changed my way of looking at the human brain and helped me understand a little about what it's like to live with mental illness or mental differences: An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jameson, about bipolar disorder; and Temple Grandin's Thinking in Pictures, about autism, among them.
The book is a beautiful gift to Tracey's sisters; to families whose pasts, presents, and futures have been and will be marked by schizophrenia; to all of us who have struggled or have loved anyone who has; and to all who are seeking understanding about ourselves and about love.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Maryellen O'Leary on May 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book immensely. It was so sad and it hit home with my own feelings. I was impressed with his writing and the history was great and the best part was his love for his sisters. It was shared already with several people that have children affected by this disease by far the worst disease on earth. It robs young people of a life. I enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it.
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