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The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic

Customer Reviews:

Interesting, but disappointing

By I. Detest-Neiklot, J.R. - July 18, 2009

I bought this book primarily thinking that it would be an even-handed exercise in sociology and amateur archaeology. As someone who really enjoys exploring abandoned buildings and postulating on the things people "leave behind" to be forgotten and then found again, I was really excited about the idea of finding out more about the lives of actual mental patients during the period of widespread institutionalization. Overall, my reaction to this book was mixed.

First of all, the authors of this book take a very strong anti-asylum tone. While it stands to reason that conditions in the asylums at the time were far from what would be considered acceptable today, no comparison is made nor information given as to how Willard compared to other asylums at the time. Furthermore, the authors shed very little light on the condition of psychology as it existed in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Other than arguing that a culture prevailed which encouraged a maintenance of the status quo in... read more

One of the Worst Books I've Ever Read

By Docarelle - February 22, 2008

I was excited about this book when I heard about it and looked forward to it eagerly. The idea behind it was absolutely brilliant. How wonderful would it be to have access to the possessions, writings, and records of the disenfranchised people who were committed to psychiatric facilities back in the "dark ages of psychiatry"? The writers made a claim that they researched intensively when writing this book; however, I was able to locate 15 errors in the first 50 pages without even looking twice. What happened to the "10 years of research"? The further I read, the more unsettled I became. The entire book was an exercise in blaming the mental health field for everything that ever happened to anyone with psychiatric issues, and, although the field frequently needs slapping, it needs an "eyes open" slapping instead of the blindfolded and repeated slam-crash-bang of a pinata stick.
The bottom line is this. Tell me the truth. Tell me upfront that you think that institutions stunk... read more

Could Have Been So Much More...

By B. Bielen "My Dissertation's Done" - August 1, 2008

I was gravely disappointed by this book. What could have been a unique, enlightening, and fascinating piece of work was simplified beyond belief, full of opinions instead of research, and really did far less justice to the individuals profiled than the author appeared to believe.

And...ok, this is an extreme pet peeve of mine...the editing was terrible. What it is lately about editing that has become so difficult? And we're not even talking about true editing, just simply making certain there are no typos and that form and grammar are correct. This was so poorly done it was painful to read.

I had looked forward to this book for some time, so I was very disappointed when I got through the first ten or so pages and realized it really wasn't for the thoughtful reader who wants solid research behind a story. No, it was a quick read for a non-critical thinker that likes to be hand-fed polemics.

Sorry.

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