Stalking Irish Madness by Patrick Tracey

     stalkingIt’s a fair assumption that anyone keen on their Irish roots wants to go back and see the old country – for family tree research or to gawk at the shades of green and wonder why anybody would want to leave.  The author’s visit to Ireland was for grimmer reasons – an ancestor search, to be sure, but one to find the genetic and cultural factors that made schizophrenia so prevalent in his family, specifically two of his four sisters.

     Through his journey to County Roscommon and around the Emerald Isle, Tracey revisits the heart-wrenching realities of the potato famine of the 1840s that drove his ancestors to Boston and supposedly drove one of them crazy.  Along the way, he meets research psychiatrists, ordinary folks with relatives that suffer from the disease, and schizophrenics themselves.  He also encounters groups within Ireland who disdain the “quick fix” of heavy medications in favor of support networks that attempt to de-stigmatize schizophrenia and its victims.

     The author also explores the historical and supernatural aspects of insanity – the wise but mad sages of old Ireland, the ages-old belief of someone’s mind being taken by the fairies, and the holy wells whose waters supposedly cure the insane.  With this book, he has created a fascinating yet disturbing pastiche of legend and bitter reality, held together with gritty hope.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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