An enthralling historical novel of a compassionate and relentless woman, a cutting-edge breakthrough in psychiatry, and a nightmare in the making.
Since her brother took his life after WWI, Ruth Emeraldine has had one goal: to help those suffering from mental illness. Then she falls in love with charismatic Robert Apter - a brilliant doctor championing a radical new treatment, the lobotomy. Ruth believes in it as a miracle treatment and in Robert as its genius pioneer. But as her husband spirals into deluded megalomania, Ruth can’t ignore her growing suspicions. Robert is operating on patients recklessly, often with horrific results. And a vulnerable young mother, Margaret Baxter, is poised to be his next victim.
Margaret can barely get out of bed, let alone care for her infant. When Dr. Apter diagnoses her with the baby blues and proposes a lobotomy, she believes the procedure is her only hope. Only Ruth can save her - and scores of others - from the harrowing consequences of Robert’s ambitions.
Inspired by a shocking chapter in medical history, The Lobotomist’s Wife is a galvanizing novel of a woman fighting against the most grievous odds, of ego, and of the best intentions gone horribly awry.
Fascinating and Unique
I snagged this as my Prime First Reads a little while back, and I finally had the chance to read it… This is probably one of my favorite PFRs yet. I love a good historical fiction story, and the initial cover information sounded intriguing. I found myself very curious about what kind of person could love the monster that led to lobotomy becoming the norm in the U.S.; although this wasn’t historically accurate, as acknowledged by the author, I did find that the wife (Ruth) felt very authentic. I was able to see how someone may have not seen/believed the villain that their husband was becoming, and as such, how the villains of a story can become convinced that they are really the heroes. I don’t know a ton about how the procedure is performed (beyond the basic ice pick method or lobe removal), but Woodruff wrote in a way that I could fully understand what was happening. Despite knowing the nightmare lobotomy became, I found myself excited for the Apters as they continued to make “progress” toward curing mental illnesses. Similarly, I found myself sharing a parallel level of concern and dread as Ruth began to discover the truth about their so-called cure; I know it was the persuasive power of Woodruff’s writing style that allowed me to empathize so much with the characters. I would definitely recommend checking The Lobotomist’s Wife out if you haven’t done so already!