A mental health and anti–death penalty activist’s deeply felt personal account of his brother, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.
Growing up, the author always looked up to his older brother, whom everyone thought of as a “brain.” Yet while he idolized his sibling, he also sensed that his brother “was not completely OK.” Ted excelled academically, but he had no friends and seemed at times to dislike other people. His mother explained her eldest son’s anti-social behavior as having resulted from trauma he suffered as a baby. But as Kaczynski suggests when he characterizes his maternal grandmother as “alcoholic, occasionally violent, and quite possibly mentally ill,” his brother’s behavior may also have had genetic roots as well. A year after Ted entered Harvard University at age 16, he was recruited to participate in a three-year psychological research project that involved “the calculated humiliation of subjects,” which the author believes may also have affected his brother. Several years after accepting a mathematics professorship at Berkeley, Ted quit his job and withdrew to the Montana wilderness. There, he wrote letters to his parents that raged against the threat posed to humanity by technology as well their unjust treatment of him. In 1995, almost 20 years after the first Unabomber attack, Kaczynski’s wife suggested that Ted was a likely suspect. Though shocked at first, after reading the Unabomber’s manifesto, he realized she was right and that he had a duty to not only discover the truth, but also act on it to save the lives of other potential victims. Compelling and quietly dramatic, the author’s story, which is followed by a brief afterword by psychiatrist James Knoll, seeks not to excuse his brother but rather to humanize him. As Knoll suggests, understanding the mentally ill "with an open heart" is an activity in which not only affected family members, but also the whole of society must engage for the good of all.
Powerfully provocative reading.