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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.

Book Reviews

My Lobotomy
Average rating
4.1 / 5
My Lobotomy
July 27th, 2016
I am truly impressed with the quality of the writing of this book. It drew a vivid picture of all the characters and of the events. There were some difficult passages to read and accept as real. I could not put this book down and when did I was thinking about it. Thanks for writing this book, for bearing your soul and exposing your vulnerabilities to the world. It brings understanding to a subject that is often left untold. Best book ever.
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1 review
June 10th, 2016
I am very glad to have read this story. As part of a generation too young to understand the outrageous practices carried out by the medical field well beyond my years; I find that the basic "Wikipedia" excerpts don't do what happened enough justice. Just plain black and white words. This story conveys the depth and the light to bring forth a personal affect, a distinct reality. If you are interested in memoirs and biographies I highly recommend this book, it is very well written.
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1 review
1 person found this helpful
Sad story
September 2nd, 2015
This book is well written. It's strangely an easy read about a really terrible thing. It's so tragic that this happened to a child, and no one was there to defend him. Keep the Kleenex handy when you read this book.
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1 review
1 person found this helpful
Great read
August 31st, 2015
Fantastic story and very well written. Certainly kept me reading. It is hard to understand how people can treat others the way they do. Hope Howard lives the rest of his years in peace, seems as if he will, he is a strong man.
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1 review
2 of 2 people found this helpful
Left me dad, angry and indignant.
August 25th, 2015
This story made me sad and angry. I am horrified that this could happen to a child and not one person stepped foward to help him.
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1 review
4 of 4 people found this helpful
My Lobotomy
January 3rd, 2015
Howard's memoir is a moving, honest journey. Inspiring, provocative, brave and beautiful. Thank you!
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1 review

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