A distinguished psychiatrist's gripping account of a ten-year search for help for his mentally ill daughter, which shook his marriage and his professional beliefs, and tested his religious faith. Flach (Psychiatry/New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center; Resilience, 1988, etc.) is as stricken as any lay person when his 14-year-old daughter Rickie has a sudden, inexplicable psychotic episode. His training and knowledge lead him to accept conventional wisdom for the treatment of her symptoms; and for ten years Rickie is sent on a journey of horror from one psychiatric hospital to another, subjected to electric shock, immersion in cold baths, isolation wards, punitive discipline, kindness and cruelty from wise and ignorant specialists. There are only transient stretches of recovery, and always a relapse. Her care costs over $100,000; a marriage that has always seemed successful collapses. Flach questions (and reconfirms) his devout Catholicism; resigns several of his appointments, doubting his own authority; moves from his longtime home to bachelor quarters and, humbled and desperate, obediently puts his trust in the expertise of colleagues. He rebels only when a lobotomy is recommended for Rickie. At last, he seeks help from unconventional practitioners ordinarily frowned upon by the rest of the profession. A maverick ophthalmologist discovers that Rickie has suffered all her life from an unusual vision problem that affects her sense of space and balance and distorts her perceptions. Given special prismatic lenses, she sees the world for the first time in a different focus. With them, and with corrective nutritional treatments from orthomolecular advocates, as well as the help of a series of alternative practitioners, she recovers. A happy ending is in store for both daughter and father: she gets a job and a husband, and has children; he finds a new wife. Writing with grace, and without loss of faith in the value of his profession, Flach draws a vivid picture of the smug humbuggery of some of his colleagues, presents himself frankly and with humility, and describes a gallant, intelligent daughter whose own lucid account of those years is interwoven with his own. The narrative has the suspense of a thriller, and its attractive characters and deep humanity will appeal to a wide audience of both professionals and lay people.
Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1989
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1989
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