The Lobotomist’s Wife

I keep saying that I want to read more historical fiction and when I did my best books of 2022 post, a reader said that this was one of her favorite books of the year. I read this in two sittings, it was unputdownable. And slightly creepy but not as dark and disturbing as I can often go. Ruth Emeraldine is a wealthy New York socialite in post WWII New York. Her family owns the big hospital, and she serves as the assistant superintendent. She’s always been happy on her own, recognizing that her professional ambitions make her seem weird and out of place for her time. Her brother had died by suicide earlier and ever since then she’d dedicated her life to helping the mentally ill. When she meets (and hires) Robert Apter, a brilliant doctor, she falls head over heels in love. Robert is supportive of her ambition and drive, and the two soon are married. When Robert pioneers a revolutionary new “miracle” procedure (the lobotomy), he is lauded as a genius. But he soon grows overly confident and negligent. Soon the lobotomy is being prescribed for things as minor as headaches or postpartum depression. Ruth realizes that she needs to stop him before it’s too late. This is a fun, easy read but one you’ll also learn something from it. (The book is inspired by real events and I really didn’t know much about earlier treatments of mental illness save for watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).

Author: Samantha Greene Woodruff